Updated: Nov 5, 2017
Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a deep sleeper—a very deep, deep sleeper. I doze off in a flash, snore like a freight train, and vividly dream with a heightened sense of emotion. More often than not, my dreams are filled with metaphors and deeper meaning. It’s not uncommon for me to wake suddenly at 3 or 4 a.m. from a dream that stirs me. Often I’ll write it down while it’s still fresh, recording as much detail as possible. Then, mysteriously, it begins to “do its work” on me, teaming with my conscious mind to grasp the dream’s message and meaning. My thoughts frequently return to my dream as I go about my day. Some dreams may stay with me longer. And then, there are those rare few that mark me for a lifetime, offering divine guidance and direction in the remembering.
Almost as if flying above myself, hovering over my own body, I looked down and saw myself sleeping in my dream. There I lay, dreaming. Weird, I know. What can I say? That’s how dreams roll. In the midst of dreaming, I woke up suddenly, startled. Feeling oddly disoriented and displaced, I didn’t recognize my surroundings. The room was dark and unfamiliar. I fumbled my way from the bed to the bathroom, painfully bumping my knee into a random chair and stubbing my toe on a dresser. In the bathroom, my fingertips scanned Braille-like across the wall, searching for the light switch. Even when the room was infused with light, I still found it difficult to see. Before me hung an enormous antique mirror with ornate etching adorning its frame. I peered at my reflection, but no matter how hard I squinted, my eyes weren’t able to fully focus—my image was blurry and undistinguishable. On the counter sat a handheld mirror. I grasped it tightly and held it to my face. The impression peering back was an abstracted, contorted form—almost Picasso-esque. Panicked, I desperately tried to sculpt my face into some semblance of who I was. My efforts were futile. Every shift made to my features—my eyes, my mouth, my nose—almost instantly morphed back into the surrealistic form. I felt desperate to find my true reflection. That’s when I heard a thunderous voice that rattled me to my core.
Now, I could make up a bunch of stories about whose voice it was that spoke in my dream—my most brilliant self, the universe, my higher self, my inner leader, a guardian angel. But I instantly knew. No doubt about it, it was the voice of God. From experience (in both my dreams and in reality), when God speaks, I pretty much know it. My insides quiver as my emotions surface, my heart and body tremble, my eyes well with tears, and perhaps most importantly, I experience this insatiable feeling of longing. It’s an aching that starts with a tiny lump in my throat, then the yearning grows bigger and bigger, expanding exponentially until my heart feels like it will explode into a million confetti pieces of burning desire. That’s when I know not to push aside my feelings. It would be impossible even if I tried. The only choice is to listen up and take note of what “The Big Guy” is telling me. In my dream, He only spoke eight words: “Who you’ve become is not who you are.” That short sentence was repeated over and over again by God’s ominous, James Earl Jones-ish voice as I searched for my image in the mirror. “Who you’ve become is NOT who you are.”
It’s been said that mirrors only show us what we look like, not who we are. In my dream, the opposite was true. My mirror revealed much more than the external. I knew my distorted reflection was symbolic of my true self. Parts of me had become unrecognizable, out of focus, even distorted. Dream interpreters often say that to see your reflection in a dream means you need to take a good hard look at yourself and your behavior in waking life. Indeed, who I’d become was not who I was. The fact is, who I’d become was far from whom I was created to be. I’d compromised in many areas of my life, become apathetic and lazy, taken the easy out, played small and fell for the seduction of adequacy. Like a mirror, dreams are often reflections of our truest selves. Mine was pleading with me to honestly consider if I liked what I saw. Was I pleased with who I’d become?
There’s a tendency we humans have to create God in the likeness of familiar archetypes—a stern judge, an inspiring artist, a forgiving father. At times, I like to imagine Him as the ultimate Life Coach. In my mind’s eye, God is stately, insightful and wise. Come to think of it, He also happens to look quite a bit like an older Tony Robbins, but with gorgeous salt-and-pepper hair (and minus the all the hype and rah-rah). Like Tony, God also has an amazing set of pearly whites and a heartwarming smile. Throughout my years, I’ve often experienced God's most excellent “coaching.” He helps me bring out my brilliance and live with passion and purpose. He truly sees and knows me. In our relationship, there’s a quality of radical candor, which I love. He doesn’t pull His punches but rather reminds me when I’ve missed the mark, gotten off-track, am making up excuses or living uncourageously. My dream life has turned into coaching sessions of sorts—a way God reveals important truths I need to consider. One of which was the message, “Who you’ve become is NOT who you are.” It’s as if God was saying, “Don’t settle for this. I created you for so much more! What happened to those dreams of yours that used to be so important? You have gifts to use that will inspire and motivate others. What are you resisting here? I know you, Melissa. Hold onto those best parts of yourself, nurture them along and share them with the world. I see you. I know you. And who you’ve become is NOT who you truly are.”
It can be a hard pill to look at your own reflection with truth. Most avoid it. Courage and vulnerability are required to truly “see.” Sure, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of never looking too closely, only taking quick sideways glances now and then. However, brief and hurried glimpses don’t create the space to deeply consider who you’ve become or are becoming. For me, my dream was spot-on. I’d been living in misalignment with who I was created to be. Way too much time was spent on the menial tasks and maintenance of life—laundry, dishes, decorating, tending the garden, social commitments, cooking, coffee with friends. Don’t get me wrong, none of these things are innately bad. But I let my time whiz by without a plan (months and months, and if I was bravely honest it would all certainly add up to years). Sure, I’d focused on the good stuff but neglected the very best I have to offer. My approach to life was rather willy-nilly, and because of that I benignly neglected the most important reasons I’ve been placed here on this planet.
I’ve got this sneaky feeling I’m not alone here. Truth is, it’s easy to haphazardly become someone we truly are not—critical, afraid, overweight, uncompassionate, under-inspired, spiritually shallow, resentful, unforgiving, wasteful of our time and talents, selfish. It takes work to stay true and honor one’s own unique passions and purpose. I suppose that’s why so many of us can get hopelessly lost along the way. Until, at that divine moment when we hear the message that cuts through all our crappy excuses and gives us a much-needed slap in the face: “Who you've become is NOT who you are!”
One of the many things I love about traveling and staying in nice hotels is calling the front lobby and setting a wake-up call. The phone rings promptly at the time I requested: 6 a.m. The pleasant voice on the other end states, “Good morning, Mrs. Timberlake. The current time is 6:00 a.m. Have a wonderful day.” You know, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a wake-up call for life? When we’ve been snoozing too long, wasting too much of our lives, your inner cell will ring. Answer it. It’s God calling. “Good morning. You are now 50 years old. It’s really time to wake up and get going. Have a passionate and purposeful life.”
Truth is, God is sending us messages all the time. Sometime we get wake-up calls, sometimes He speaks through dreams, and sometimes He might even speak to you through a silly little blog. Whatever way He chooses to communicate His message, don’t be surprised if you just so happen to hear Him say, “Who you’ve become is NOT who you are.”