I startled awake to unfamiliar banging and crashing sounds this morning. It was six o’clock and construction workers in nearby housing lots had already begun their work evidently. As I lay quiet and groggy in my bed, the dream I had suddenly awakened from crept in from the edges of my mind, uninvited but persistent.
I wished I hadn’t remembered. The dream wasn’t a pleasant one. It was disturbing. It drew me back to a time of frustration and hurt. And as the unwelcomed dream became clearer in my foggy mind, the emotions that I had worked so hard to peel off of me in previous months began to settle over me like a burdensome blanket.
Not even out of bed, my mood was already taking a downward turn. No! I don’t want to start my day with these oppressive thoughts and emotions. My mind scrambled to get control over the invasive feelings.
The enemy of my soul has studied me well and knows that my dreams are vivid and sticky. They don’t evaporate as easily as some people’s evidently do. My husband rarely remembers a dream. But I could write nonsensical Alice in Wonderland kinds of tales from mine. Every. Single. Morning. And while they may be wildly ridiculous, my dreams usually contain just enough reality to suck me in emotionally.
Do your dreams seem to have uninvited power over you? Do they often set the direction for your day, even overriding your calendar and good intentions? Have they held your emotions captive even after the alarm has sounded and the shower water has warmed? I realize not everyone battles with their dreams, but you may. I know the frustration.
Sticky dreams may stay in my mind after sunrise, but I won’t let them steal my joy and steer my day. Instead, God’s Word will establish my steps and strengthen my heart.
Neurogenesis is the biological process of laying new neurological track in our brains. It turns out that even as adults we generate new neurons or neurological pathways every night as we sleep. That’s one of the reasons adequate and sound sleep is so crucial to our well-being.
The study of neurogenesis has suggested that the way we use our “new track” each morning with our genesis or first thoughts plays some role in the habits or patterns our brains establish. So our genesis thoughts are perhaps our most important thoughts, the ones that steer the course of our day.
As someone who experiences the emotional residue of lingering nocturnal dreams on a regular basis, I can attest that our initial thoughts and emotions are indeed powerful. I’ve had enough days spoiled from sticky dreams to know that the first things to capture my mind in the morning easily set up strongholds that can only be destroyed through full on warfare. Spiritual warfare, that is.
Because I refuse to allow the enemy to win this sometimes daily battle, I’ve committed to beginning my morning by praising God and reading truth. Out of necessity, I lift up praises to God before I even throw off the covers each morning. I praise Him because He has not slept, but is ever thinking of me. I praise Him because He is good, gracious and faithful. I praise Him because he is bigger than my dreams or the weighty emotions they sometimes evoke. I confess my dependence on Him and thank Him for taking responsibility for my every anxiety.
Next, I either head out the door to exercise with praise music piped into my ears or sit down with a cup of coffee and my opened Bible. Regardless of what thoughts or emotions may be storming my mind from the night before, I fasten my focus on God’s Word and hold on tight. I ask God to speak to me and listen for His still, small voice to rise above the disturbance.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:2)
Look, I don’t want you to think I’m waging some kind of hellacious, ghostbuster-ish war over my breakfast table every morning all in an effort to recover from devilish dreams. I don’t want you to imagine green slime all over the floor or smoke coming out of my ears.
There was that one time… (grin)
But what I do want you to know is that you don’t have to settle for a rotten day just because you’re having a hard time rubbing the dream residue out of the corners of your mind. I’m not one to look for a demon behind every bush, but I do know that Satan sometimes uses our nighttime fairy tales to sow seeds of anxiety, bitterness, doubt and depression. And I just want you to know that, especially if you get at it first thing in the morning, those seeds can be gathered up and destroyed before they take root. It takes work. You’ve got to lace up your boots and pick up the right tools early. But it can be done.
Maybe you don’t remember your dreams. And maybe your dreams never affect your moods. You are blessed. But if they do, I understand. And I encourage you to go to war against the one who has studied you well and taken advantage of you too long. Sticky dreams may stay in your mind after sunrise, but don’t let them steal your joy or steer your day. Instead, allow God’s Word to establish your steps and strengthen your heart.
Do you remember your dreams in the morning? Do you struggle with the sticky emotions they evoke or do you shake them pretty quickly? I’d love to know!
His vivid dreams are one of the things that drew me to Joseph’s story in Genesis 38-50. But the 7-week Bible study I wrote about him is really about keeping a soft heart when life puts you in a hard place. This study has helped countless women find healing and hope for their wounded hearts. You might find it useful, too.