I was a substitute physical therapist, running an hour late for my appointment across town. Due in at 8pm, I had gotten sidetracked by errands at home, only to look up at the clock as it flipped to 8:09. After texting my patient that I’d be late, I became again distracted by finishing up the smorgasbord of little projects I’d begun. I didn’t get to her till 9.
My patient was more than a bit irritated. She was tired and hungry, and not exactly in the mood to receive treatment from me, not even a licensed therapist. It was a favor for a friend who had to call out sick that afternoon. Was it legal? Definitely not. But it would do. It would also get me a good amount of extra cash.
On my drive over to the office, I had come up with several strengthening exercises and a good smattering of advice for Michelle, who was still a long way from recovery for her lower-leg injury, just to the outside of her right shin. As a devoted runner for over 20 years, I had my fair share of knowledge of how to bounce back from injury. Having an award-winning high school cross country and track coach for a father certainly didn’t hurt, either. I glanced at her diagnosis and notes from my friend again when I arrived.
Michelle wasn’t buying it, though. Apparently, my recommendations and exercises were contradictory to those of her usual doctor, my friend. After several minutes of convincing her of my expertise, though, she relented. No, I assured her, just running a couple miles on it would not “loosen it up and make it stronger,” despite what her doctor had said. “How about we go do a couple reps of staircases over in the park? I’ll do them all with you, since I need my workout today, too. We can enjoy the park and make your leg stronger, too.”
In the car on the way to the park, Michelle and I discussed some nerdy reading I’d done on readily available foods that aid during recovery from injury, even swapping some recipe ideas. In the middle of our conversation, though, I got a random phone call from a co-worker’s spouse. She, like he, was a talker. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get her off the phone. By the time our conversation ended, I practically had to swerve onto the exit ramp from the highway not to miss the park. Why did I even pick up the phone in the first place? I recalibrated the GPS app on my phone to ensure I was headed the right way. Michelle was none too happy that we were getting started so late.
Then I woke up. It was probably 4:30 in the morning. I’d fallen asleep on the couch watching Netflix again. As I took out my contacts, brushed my teeth, and tried my best to not awaken my wife while crawling into bed, the vivid details of my dream came crawling slowly back into the front of my mind. A substitute physical therapist? What a ridiculous premise for a dream! I didn’t even take much science after high school. I did have a physical therapist for a while after a running injury a couple years back, and she was a friend of mine. Maybe that’s where my subconscious mind pulled it from.
Then, like a machine that’s just been put together and begins spinning its parts together for the first time, I saw the dream for its deeper implications.
How often do we allow our own doubts about ourselves to get in the way of our real potential? We certainly may not be “experts” in things the way the world sees it, but we certainly have untapped gifts that we’re not allowing God to use if we simply allow the “experts” to always have the presumptive last word.
So often we know what our calling is, we make our firm decisions, and no sooner does that happen then we let folks with no real stake in our community derail us or have undue influence. Just as I was distracted by my phone conversation while driving to make good on my responsibilities to Michelle, we allow the world to decide where our attention lies, instead of us doing so in prayerful, thoughtful consideration with God.
Or are we so busy getting our errands and side projects done that we never even start? Is it 8pm in our lives and we don’t really look at the clock until it’s 8:09? We make decisions about how things can and should be different and never even take the step towards starting that change. A friend told me recently that he failed badly at his job a couple of weeks ago, and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t nearly as bad as we usually make failure out to be. We’re built to fail. In fact, even when we succeed, the criteria the world uses to assess our work may be announced as failure.
May you have dreams. May they tell you things. May they tell me things that I’m not ready to hear.
(And feel free to add your own psychoanalysis of my dream in the comments!)
Kenneth J. Pruitt is a teacher by trade, and the Director of Volunteer Management at Kingdom House, an IVC partner agency focused on social services and founded during the settlement house movement. He is proud of St. Louis, his adopted home. His wife is far more attractive and intelligent than he. He loves what you’ve done with your hair.