In my twenties and thirties, I experienced a recurring dream wherein I was back at J.M.A. Armstrong High School in Salisbury, except my current adult age, and I would find myself sitting in an otherwise empty classroom, waiting to take a test. Unconcerned about the obvious question of why I was taking a High School test at the age of 30, I would ask myself in the dream, “How am I supposed to write this test? I am 100% unprepared for it. How did this happen?”
As you may already know, dreams of being unprepared for tests in various forms are common. They are so common, some neuroscientists have offered explanations for why they may occur, such as anxiety over unachieved goals, paths not taken, missed opportunities, regrets over past actions, etc. In fact, the more I read about these dreams, the more I did not like what I was learning because they suggested some kind of tension between the expectations I (and others) had for my life and the way my life was unfolding. Everything was perfect, how dare I dream otherwise?
People studying human behaviour have a field day with this kind of stuff, but my point here is knowing that unpleasant feeling of being unprepared for an event that is both important and imminent. You might have experienced something similar if you have ever walked into a presentation or meeting unprepared for what was expected of you. Now, compare that to the feeling you experience when walking into a test, presentation, or meeting having prepared for it to the best of your ability. While you may still experience nervousness, you know you are ready for what lies before you, and the difference between being prepared and being unprepared is like night and day.
With Jesus’ precaution to “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” we are invited to maintain a posture of ever-readiness for encountering our Christ, our God. Ron Rolheiser suggests Jesus is telling us to “Wake up! Wake up before death wakes you up.” During the upcoming season of Advent, we will be encouraged to wake up to the commercialism of our culture, and to all that which distracts us from preparing ourselves for encountering the divine. Preparedness in 2017 involves forging a spiritual space that goes beyond the superficiality of what our culture calls us to be, and draws us into a deeper relationship with our God. Not only does this “nurture strength of spirit to shield (us) in sudden misfortune,” as Max Ehrmann wrote in Desiderata, but it also helps us to recognize that Jesus lives among us right now.
“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -The Minpins, by Roald Dahl
Archdiocese of Moncton, Office of Youth Faith Development