Dying in hell to come alive in heaven
I want so desperately to forget that feeling. And I yearn to remember it forever.
I’m dreaming in the early morning hours.
I’m watching children be physically abused. The most horrendous abuse imaginable.
One of them is a little girl. I can’t see her face.
But then she turns toward me.
My blood runs chill as I see it’s my own eight-year-old daughter.
I watch as she is thrown viciously across a room by a large, burly man. Her shirt is torn off. Her body is filthy and she has bruises and burn marks all over her. She is wailing.
My entire being is screaming to wrap her in my arms and hold her, to protect her, to take away all her pain, to make her terror disappear forever.
I jerk awake. I can’t breathe. The weight of the world is crushing my chest. I gasp for air.
I’m shuddering. I beg God to make the feeling go away. I plead with Him over and over again to tell me what it means.
No direct answer comes. The feeling remains and presses upon me.
And as I lay beside my sleeping wife in the dark, I weep. Tears flow from a bottomless well in the deepest part of my soul.
I weep for the agony and suffering of the world. I weep for shattered innocence.
I weep for the confusion, delusion, and self-deception of humanity that makes us see each other as enemies and hurt each other.
I weep with a profound longing to wrap my arms around the world and make all the suffering disappear forever.
I ponder the dream and the feeling all week.
I ponder on how we see all the abusers and causers of pain and suffering as out there, and see ourselves as innocent.
I ponder on the many ways I constantly contribute to the suffering of the world: my harsh words spoken in anger, my impatience, my antagonism. My greed, pride, fear, and lust. My simple thoughtlessness as I move through the world and consume and use and spend with no thought of the impact everything I do has on every single person in the world.
I ponder on how we all want to change the world, when the world is inside us.
I ponder on how turning inward and focusing on elevating my own level of consciousness is the single greatest thing I can do to alleviate the world’s suffering.
I ponder on how everyone and everything is connected, and how our sense of separateness causes conflict and anguish.
I ponder Gandhi’s quote:
“I believe in the essential unity of all that lives. Therefore I believe that if one person gains spiritually the whole world gains, and if one person falls, the world falls to that extent.”
I ponder on how every single thing I have ever hated about anyone else is inside me, and how everything I have ever loved about myself is inside everyone else.
I ponder on how my enemies are me and I am my enemies and we are all one and there is no one and nothing to fight; love is the only thing that can make the madness stop.
Later in the week I discover this breathtakingly simple and deeply profound quote from poet Alison Luterman:
“Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfect ripe ones bruise at even too heavy a human touch…Every strawberry you have ever eaten — every piece of fruit — has been picked by callused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represents someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandana on her wrist to wipe away the sweat.”
I have no idea what my dream means. I only know what it did to me.
I fear that experiencing that emotion again will kill me, and I can’t bear the thought of other people feeling it in real life.
But I know that opening our hearts with compassion to the suffering of the world is the only thing that keeps us truly alive.