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Dreams are paradoxical. Are they are are they not reality? They're not the same reality we experience during conscious self-awareness, of course; however, they do occupy real intervals in our lived existence, and what transpires in our dreams may fundamentally change our views of both ourselves and of our real situations.
I write here of a dream which I had at the age of fourteen. Up until then I had been a practicing Christian without any moral scruples about such a profession. True, the existence of God was not an immutable fact burned into my brain, but I could easily worship a hypothetical God. If He did exist, I had no doubt that He must be infinitely good, wise, powerful, beautiful and just, and I worshipped gladly. If, on the other hand, He didn't exist, it was anything but a social disadvantage in the Deep South to publicly pretend and conduct myself as if He did. Many more Christians take this point of view, I would wager, than would freely admit it. However, after my dream, I could no longer do this. My dream could not be literally true, but the truth within it could not be denied. The meaning of my dream awakened me from a sound and secure slumber, and once I had opened my eyes and seen, I could not close them again.
In my dream it was Judgment Day in Heaven. The Lord God was dispensing Holy Justice, and each person who appeared before Him was, according to their faith and good conduct, either labeled a sheep or a goat. The sheep, assembled on His right hand, would be rewarded with unending Rapture and would attend Him always. The goats, gathered on His left hand, would be consigned to eternal Damnation, and would be separated from His august Presence forever. I was next in line.
"Joe Ervie Dees," He read from His Book of Accounting, "Thy Judgment is next. Come before Me." I winced. My middle name has always embarrassed me, and here He was reading it aloud for all the Hosts to hear.
"I am here, Father," I answered, walking forward and bowing before Him. He appeared as all children imagine Him to appear, an old man with flowing white robes and hair, the latter surmounted by a glowing halo, and seated upon a golden throne. He peered at me for a few celestial moments, then Smiled. "Grace is with you, Mr. Dees. Both your private conscience and your public example have been exceedingly righteous. You may join the sheep."
I did not move. I hesitated, then, almost inaudibly, I spoke.
He seemed perturbed by my unwarranted intrusion, and not just a little displeased at the delay. However, with a superhuman effort of patience, He asked, "What is it, My son?" in clipped tones.
"Father," I blurted out, "I want to go with the goats." There; I'd said it!
One majestic eyebrow lowered menacingly, but the other arched in surprise. I had aroused both His ire and His interest. He inclined His head towards me, ceding me the floor, and clasped His hands beneath it. "Why, My son?" He inquired.
I was emboldened.