To Wear the Faces of the Dead

Roy's Funeral

His mother died.

He’s not a member yet, but he’s been taking membership classes. He’s a young but eager Christian. I’m supposed to officiate at his wedding, and would have, except… he got caught violating parole. I believe him when he says he didn’t realize he was doing it. I withhold judgment on whether or not he should have known what he was doing was violating.

He’s been held in jail, and his courtdate is set. And then… last night, his mother died.

I know this man. I know his heart. This will rip him apart. It’s going to break him that this happened while he was on the inside. That he can’t be with his family. That he can’t mourn with them, but is stuck in a cell.

I got the news last night not long before bed. I started planning what I had to do to see him today.

And then I went to his mom’s funeral.

I was dreaming. I knew I was dreaming; it was one of those.

They held the funeral at a funeral home. I didn’t officiate; she didn’t want me to be her pastor, and had made it clear several times. I’ll still go to support the family. He wasn’t there; they wouldn’t let him out of jail to attend. But his fiance, her kids, and all of her family were there. I sat with them.

Of course there were a lot of people I’ve never met before there. His family. His mom’s friends. And sitting right up there – a woman with blond hair, just a touch heavyset. I heard her conversing with someone next to her – a throaty laugh. And she turns.

It’s a woman I buried a year and a half ago. A young woman. Someone who deeply grieved the congregation with her passing.

What is she doing here?

This sense of unease grows roots around my heart, thorny roots, poking and prodding as they dig. Something is wrong here. It’s not just a dream. There’s something else. What is going on? And every time I swing my eyes back to her, back to the woman I buried, she seems so normal, as if she never died, but everything, everything else in this dream is so mundane.

The funeral concludes in the way that time passes in dreams – we’re just now at the end. I stand to go find the deceased woman. I catch her by the wrist. “Who are you?”

She turns. Her face stretches. She answers, “I have many names.”

I awake.

I can’t move. I feel terror at a level I don’t remember ever feeling before. I try to breathe. I’m in bed. I can feel the mattress under me. The pillow’s under my head.

I can’t move.

My muscles rebel; they won’t listen. And that face. What happened to her face?

What did she say?

I honestly can’t remember now. Did she say, “I heave many names,” or “We have many names”?

But when she turned. When she turned to face me. I can’t describe what it looked like now. I can’t even picture it anymore. But I know the emotion I felt: Terror. Only terror.

And as I lay in bed, I find I can finally move my eyes.

I am too scared to open them.

This house. This house has terrified those who lived here before. I do not hold to “haunted houses” or any such nonsense, but I know that demons can take up residence to scare humans, to drive them away from Christ. And this house – we’ve had some things here that have genuinely frightened us. And I’ve spoken to my predecessor; we’re not alone in that.

I can’t open my eyes. What will I see?

I’m in bed. It’s early in the morning. I can hear my Bride sleep beside me. This is ridiculous. How old am I? How long have I been a pastor?

And I pray.

The rock that has held back the prayers bursts, and a flood of begging, of pleading with my Father, to be with me, to calm me, to protect me, words overlapping and echoing and screaming out inside my head to the Throne of Heaven. I don’t know if I have ever been so earnest in prayers as last night as I lay there paralyzed, the echo of “I/We have many names” driving me on in fear.

After agonizing eternities, I gain control over my arms, my legs, I open my eyes – it is my room. Nothing is amiss. I turn and snuggle my Bride.

It’s a dream.

Its. A. Stupid. Dream.

But it shook me so much. Look, this isn’t normal for me. Dreams can be weird and even horrific, but once I’m awake, they don’t linger like this. Not like this.

And I wonder.

Angels can appear in dreams. We know of a few times where it happens in the Bible; Gabriel spoke to Joseph that way (Matthew 1:20), for instance.

And demons are only fallen angels.

Can they appear in dreams?

Angels cause terror. There’s a reason that every time they appear, pretty much the first thing they always say is, “Fear not.”

But demons? They also cause terror, and they have no reason to say, “Fear not.”

I wonder. Of all the false theologies, the terrible doctrines that tear people away form Christ, so many of them come in dreams. Whispered by demons?

Look, I have no idea what happened last night. Spiritual realities often defy any kind of human language or understanding. It’s supernatural for a reason, you know? Was it a demon messing in my dreams, or simply a tired, overactive imagination? I don’t know.

But I know that the incident caused me to pray in a way I don’t know I’ve ever done before, clinging to my Father for life in a way I’ve not had to experience before. And clinging to my Father? Whatever it was, well, there was something good that came out of it.

I’m not looking forward to any kind of repeat, though!

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