Sunday, March 11, 2007
Attachments to Sin
A few weeks ago I had a terrible dream. It was a long one, and most of is was just a bunch of "clutter", but the final scenes in this dream have remained with me. Initially when I woke up, I thought it just a nightmare, as it was about spiders and their webs (I'm arachnophobic), but as I prayed my rosary that morning, the interpretation of the dream came to me, haunted me, and forced me to relive that dream, for it seemed that this one meant something. This one carried a message.
In the dream, I entered my house and went into my garage, looking for a key I needed. It was in the corner near the door. But I could not get to it because several spiders had built their webs in that corner, and there was NO WAY I was going to reach into that to find the key I knew was there!
So I went back into the house, and noticed that one of my walls was completely covered with a thick, thick web. I stared at it in a sort of muted horror, wondering where all this had come from? Near the bottom, something moved, a common long-legged house spider, and I realized it must be destroyed. It moved; thus it must go away quickly.
I also realized that for some reason, the entire wall was a very large garage door, and until the spiders and their webs were removed, I would not be able to open the door. To attempt to do so would be disastrous; it would mean the entire mess would come down on top of me and I coudn't bear such a thought, so in the dream, I chose not to consider that.
I turned away and went to find my spray bottle, a spider repellant, which I hoped would kill all the spiders that still lived, even unseen, in that terrible thick web. First I went to the garage where I was careful to cover all corners and the entire door with the fine spray. Then I went to the large wall/door in my home and sprayed it down, aiming especially at anything that moved. When done, I put the bottle away then returned to the conglomeration of spider webs, trying to figure out how best to deal with the mess.
Even as I stared at it, I realized that for some reason, I was not as horrified as I should have been; I am complete arachnophobic. I HATE spiders, they freak me out and give me nightmares. (case in point!). Yet I was somewhat disaffected by the overabundance of these horrible creatures and the home they had made in my very house!. I thought this kind of complacency to be odd, even in the dream.
Then I realized that the chemical spray had done a strange thing; it had collapsed and melted the thick web to such a degree that it exposed the spiders, both living and dead, that clung to the strands. This web was thick, like cotton, and completely covered that huge door/wall, and nearly every inch of that web was covered with spiders. There were HUGE spiders...from the trantula family, a species which does not naturally exist in Minnesota. Most of those seemed to be dead, if not all, thus not dangerous, but I shuddered to realize that at one point they had been living right there in my house.
I saw every spider, recognizing that all were different, some bigger and fatter than others, for some had been there feeding for longer. My gaze zeroed in on each one of them in turn, taking in the horrible view, watching for movement, trying to figure out if they were really dead, and if so, why were they still there and how had I not noticed them before?
I woke up then, shuddering, wondering why I had been so complacent in that dream?
I often pray the rosary on my way to work, and that morning, as I prayed, the images from that dream pulverized me...and so I let the images come, praying all the while, asking God what I was supposed to gain from this?
And He answered.
The dream was a metaphor, so let me give a little background.
Ever since I read St. Francis de Sales "Introduction to the Devout Life" I have been praying about attachment to sin. We all struggle so much with this; our propensity towards sin, our habits, our vices, those things we do that are comfortable to us, so much so that they aren't always recognizable as sin. I have often wondered how to break those attachments?
So let us use this as a jumping-off point; in my dream, I entered a house, my house. For the sake of "interpretation", let's say that this house is me, or more specifically, my soul. For we know that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, thus we, ourselves, are home.
Then let's consider the small garage door. I'll admit it...I'm stumped. It was maybe just a warning...
When I went into the main house, seeing the large door inhabited and covered by spiders and webs like cotton, I noted a few living spiders. Let us say that each spider represents sin. The large spiders equal mortal or strong habitual sin. The small common ones are venial sin.
I saw that the largest spiders seemed to be dead. They could not harm me. Then why were they there? They clung as desperately, even more so, to the web even in their death, than the small, scuttering living spiders.
Initially I thought that the spiders represented demons clinging, but no, they are sin, because I realized, I was TOLERATING them.
Notice that although in real life I am terrified of spiders, in my dream I was nearly comfortable with the fact that these monstrosities, these unnatural things were covering my walls, would breed, and spread throughout...and prevent me from opening that very large door they covered.
Notice that those spiders CLUNG to the walls, alive and dead. They clung, they remained, and I allowed them, even had a degree of comfort with their presence. Compacence.
Then I sprayed down the web, which revealed what was really there.
In prayer, I realized that the "spray" was holy water, which, in reality, I use around my house all the time. In the dream, when using this spray, it revealed what was really there previously unseen, unrecognized.
Funny parallel... holy water causes the remission of venial sins, and in the dream, the revelation of what was really there. In the spiritual life, the frequent use of sacramentals, the Sacraments, etc, can ALSO reveal what is there, what plagues us. The use of these blessed things, especially holy water, remits venial sins, and in that process during which we are seeking holiness, reveals to us those sins which are embedded even more deeply, maybe things that are habitual and otherwise beneath our notice. Additionally, proper use of sacramentals repels sin from us as it helps to keep us holy by helping us to keep our gaze fixed on the Lord.
Thus, in the dream, something hidden deeply veiled was revealed to me, which goaded me into a certain action; the recognition of what they were and the need to remove them.
In the dream I realized I had to clean out the mess caused by the spiders, I could not continue to live that way. I could not look upon the carcasses and live monstrosities and go on as I was; they needed to go away and quickly.
And back in real life, in prayer, I realized I was looking at the inside of my soul; the spiders were sins, the dead ones were sins which have been forgiven. Yet I have not gotten rid of them; they still cling, haunting me. Maybe temporal punishment, maybe because I have not forgiven myself? And the fact that they were clinging to a door...that is the doorway that stands between the soul and God. All those sins, all that STUFF keeping me between myself and union with the Lord.
We do that; we hang onto our pasts, and by doing so, we are rejecting the mercy of God. We are rejecting the life that God wants us to live in favor of either continuing in our favorite sinful attachments or by failure to accept the mercy of God when our pasts have been forgiven.
I do fully believe that God speaks to us in many different ways, through people, events, music, and art, and certainly sometimes directly in prayer. I also believe that most dreams are just a bunch of clutter being expelled by our brains, but somtimes, God uses this medium to get messages to us through the use of our own personal parables.
For someone who is arachnophobic, there could be no better metaphor for the effect of sin on the soul than the spiders and webs in my dream. God may send someone else a dream of snakes or rats. He sent me spiders, and I'm not sure the worst demon in hell could trump the fear the sight of a spider puts into me. We humans are so complicated that way, but God knows this so speaks to us personally in order to get His point across.
Lent is a time in which we spend time spiritually housecleaning; this dream helped me to focus on what kind of housecleaning I need to do. So my question to YOU is: What haven't you let go of? What keeps you from opening that door to God? What is your barrier, and are you REALLY willing to face what is there?