So many recurrent nightmares across my lifespan. The first recurring one I remember was around age 9 or 10. I was in a haunted house with my family, but we would get separated and I’d be alone trying to find my way out. At the end I would find the exit but then have to go to the morgue and identify all my family members – the drawers were pulled out, each of them a corpse. The next one that occurred frequently was being chased by wolves in the upstairs of my house. They would catch up to me, bite my heels and I would leap like superman down my stairs. I woke up in terror before hitting the bottom which was never visible. Later were the parenting nightmares. I left the car seat on the roof of my car, in the 7-11, in a cave, in a tunnel or behind a SUV that was backing up. Many a night my poor husband would be jolted to consciousness by me jumping up and screeching “be sure you know where the kids are before you back up!”
The nightmare that has stayed with me persistently, from my teenage years to today is the one I call the “feather punch.” I am confronted with a thing that wants to overtake and kill me. Sometimes the thing is a person, sometimes a wild animal, a faceless dark power. I punch and punch and punch it furiously but nothing happens. My hardest, most powerful punches have no effect and the thing continues to press in on me until I am smothered, terrified, dying and I wake up.
I started Taekwondo when I was 16 and received a black belt from Grand Master Jhoon Rhee in 1986. And still my punches were feather light in my dream and I was overtaken. I went to medical school and received a “black belt” of academia with my MD in 1996. But my dream-self was still weak and ineffective and never prevailed. I started drinking when I was 15 and managed to obtain the “black belt” (of sorts) of alcohol consumption by age 42. But even inebriation and blackouts didn’t erase the dim knowledge that my punches could not beat my enemy. I quit Taekwondo. I quit medicine. I quit drinking. I admitted defeat.
That’s when God killed my enemy, not with punches or knowledge or substances but with a word – Jesus. I am a doctor again and I have a blue belt in Brazilian Juijitsu and a purple belt in MMA. I don’t drink alcohol because I don’t need it any more. I still have the dream now and again and my punches are still as ineffective. I fight with all my might and grow weary and sometimes even scared and a little banged up. But my nightmare ends differently. I am never smothered or overtaken or defeated. Rather, I emerge whole and alive and victorious, saved by the Word alone.