August 17, 2010. As I wrote in "Our Crystalline World" I went through a period of spiritual, mental and emotional upheaval in the mid-1970's. I was in my twenties, and working as a Catalog Research Assistant in the Georgia State University library in downtown Atlanta. In the evenings and on week-ends, when I had the extra money, I'd bar-hop, "looking for love in all the wrong places". Money was short, and true friends were few. I was still questioning God about the issues I was dealing with in my life, what my purpose was, and wondering how I could serve God and yet fulfill my wishes as a man, son, brother and friend.
During that era, I slept little during the week but late on the weekends, and like most people, I dreamed; mostly nonsensical, sometimes dark and frightening, seldom exciting. Then one night several months prior to my weekend visit to the monastery, I had a dream that shook me to my spiritual foundation and spurred a change in my life.
In it, I was riding with my roommate, Jimmy, in his black Ford pick-up truck, down a rural country road that divided a dense, lush forest. In the middle of the humid, summertime night in middle Georgia, there were few houses and no nearby convenience stores, gas stations or shopping centers. I didn't know where we were going, but after a drive of perhaps 45 minutes, Jimmy pulled into the barren sandy front yard of a small wood-frame house. When we walked from the truck, through the unlocked screen door of the house, a ceiling light was on. We could see one small room; a bedroom. Through a door to our left, I saw the white edge of an old electric stove.
Within minutes, a dark-haired girl walked into the room from the kitchen, smiled, and wordlessly handed us a couple of blankets and pillows. Jimmy took them, gave me one of each, and the girl walked away. Jimmy shut off the lights and he and I settled down onto the worn linoleum-covered floor in the middle of the room. We slept.
A few hours later, I awoke to the faint sound of music and saw early morning sunlight breaking into the room around the slightly curled edges of the lone window's dirty vinyl shade. As I sat up, I recalled our drive of the previous evening and slowly realized the music was actually people's voices, coming from somewhere outside. Curious, I got up, walked out the front door, and turned toward the side yard. The singing seemed to be coming from beyond a stand of trees that bordered the left side of the small twig-strewn sandy lot. I walked slowly through the trees, and emerged at the edge of a large meadow where the tall green grass glistened in the morning sun. Ahead of me stood probably 60-70 men and women, all uniformly facing left toward the distant end of the meadow. They had been singing, and continued to sing, church songs. I glanced to my far left and could see the faint form of what appeared to be someone seated in a sort of chair, probably 200-300 yards away. I felt compelled to walk to that end of the meadow. As I neared the figure in the chair, I became increasingly aware of a brilliant white light emanating from the figure in the chair. Because of his feet and sandals, I assumed the figure was a man, whom sat quietly listening to the songs of praise of the people I'd left behind.
As I stepped within three to four feet of him, I couldn't see his face because the light was so bright. I was convinced he was a holy man, and I was struck with the idea that He - this man, was - Jesus! Amazed and humbled, yet thrown deeply into despair over my uncleanness and the sinful mess I'd made of my life, I fell to my knees at his feet.
I was unworthy to look into his face; I folded myself over onto my thighs, bent my chest to the ground, and for no other reason than shame and guilt, began to cry.
Suddenly, I heard a prolonged braying laugh. Shocked - knowing that the Jesus I thought I knew would never laugh at me - I reared back into a semi-upright position. I quickly glanced up. As I did, the one whom sat on the small gilded throne reached up to his face with his left hand. He grabbed a spot under his chin, and pulling up and out, completely pealed his face backward. Suddenly, all the light faded but what I glimpsed in that mere second was a face so ugly, putrid, evil and fearful that I became numb with disbelief and terror. I collapsed onto my face and forearms; I was in the presence of evil like I'd never seen or experienced. I was afraid that I'd be snatched up and destroyed within seconds. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut. The evil laugh erupted again.
Overcome with fear, I cried out "No! No! I want the Other One!"
The laughter abruptly faded away. From the corners of my eyes, I sensed a new light, growing slowly brighter around me, and felt, rather than saw, the first figure return to the throne. Then, I sensed two other figures, white-clothed, nearly invisible, standing inches away from both his left and right shoulders. I glimpsed an image of wings behind them. I collapsed with relief.
Shortly after that, I awoke in my own bed, soaked with sweat. I was terrified and confused. Over the next few days and months as I thought about the dream, and what my life had become and about the choices I'd made, I read through my Bible. One of the verses I found was Joshua 24:15, "...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". (New American Standard Bible) There was another verse that said I could not serve two masters. I began to fear that I, like some of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' time, was becoming like a cup, washed clean on the outside but full of all evil and deceit within, or like a grave, adorned on the outside but full of dead men's bones.
I gradually reached the conclusion that I'd had the dream because of my indecision and my unwise, sinful actions. I honestly felt that God was telling me that I'd gone down the "wide, smooth path that leads to destruction" too far and for too long, and that I was in danger of no longer being able to return to God, of never again being able to make an informed, conscious choice for good, not evil, for God and not the devil.
It took me several more attempts, false starts and failures to turn my life around. I continually pondered how I was living my life and what and whom I'd been holding onto. After months of prayer, thinking, and further searching God's Word, I made my decision to spend the week-end at the monastery in an attempt to draw nearer to God. I desperately wanted to get off my sinking spiritual ship and to rid myself of the anchor of sin that was pulling me down deeper, deeper, and deeper.