In spring 2017, I had a dream of being in a classroom. It was a very large classroom, full of students, and went as far back as I could see when I dared to look up, which wasn’t too often.
I didn’t feel qualified to be there. We were told our class average grade was 3.95/4.00. Like we were selected or had previously proven our merits. Where we had come from, what we had done or why we were in a classroom, I wasn’t sure.
I felt younger than others. Like a child, maybe seven or eight years old really, amidst young teenagers. It was an amplified feeling of what I sometimes experienced in high school or college, finding myself in a class primarily with students from the grade above me. We each sat in our all-in-one desk-chair rig, but we didn’t sit adjacent to one another.
Deciphering the Codes
I was eating a small piece of bread that came in a wrapper. It was about the size of a saltine cracker, with something rather strange printed on the packaging:
Aside from snacking on this bread, I wasn’t doing much else, but felt like I should be preoccupied with something. I was in a quiet classroom, after all. I didn’t look up to see what the other students were doing.
The teacher must have noticed me sitting there quietly. I didn’t look up at her face either. Just like my 8-year-old self, I was very shy. I could tell she was beautiful though. She wore a long, dark blue skirt and a white ruffled blouse, just like Mary Poppins.
She gently picked up my package of bread and on the package drew this:
I stared at it intensely. What did it mean?
At first glance, it looked like a set of strange, happy eyes. A smiley face with no mouth or nose. I was picturing this:
Maybe she was saying hello? Seeing I had not made progress, she stood at the front of my desk again. She must have been a saint. She was so kind and patient. Again she drew the symbols. I looked harder. I really wanted to please her and carry out her task for me.
I cocked my head and then turned it upside-down. From this perspective, they certainly resembled the letter “M”.
No, wait! Now the creative juices were flowing. They were arrows pointing at the blackboard to my right.
There it was. An assignment very discreetly written. I was to read the last six pages or so of a book that had been sitting on my desk.
I opened it up to its final pages and began to read. Just… wow.
Organic as Flunk
It was such beautiful and creative prose, adorned with the most carefully selected words. Words rich with multiple meanings, creatively playing off one another like musicians improvising onstage.
As if I was given a butter knife to hack through a rainforest, I had to slowly and carefully unravel the sentences. They were just so overwhelmingly dense and rich with meaning. Every phrase combined words in ways I’ve never seen before. Metaphors like “organic as flunk” and “as free spirited as Italy”.
It seemed to be describing a boy who was being acquainted with a new family, perhaps a divine family. I was only able to read a few lines because it was so potent, and in my insecurity I also couldn’t stop thinking about how behind in the assignment I must have been at this point.
Was God giving me insight into a book that exists that I need to read? I woke from this dream wide-eyed at 6AM and bumbled for my phone on my nightstand. I clumsily typed in the only two phrases I could recall. “Organic as flunk” yielded not a single search result on the world wide web. Nor did “as free spirited as Italy” exist. Whoa…
God wasn’t giving me insight into an earthly book I need to read. He was giving me insight into a book I need to finish writing.
I was reading a book about my life, and specifically I was reading about my recent self, since I was towards the end of the book.
It started to click. The inscribed, arrowy “M” is the first letter of my name, and the pungent prose reflected a deeper meaning to me about myself:
- “Organic as flunk”: I am conscious of the food and drink choices I make to take care of this God-given body of mine. I think “as flunk” is God’s comical nod at both my newfound intensity for righteousness and my former proclivity to use vulgar language, and it’s also probably satirically poking fun at how industrialized our food industry is. Food now needs to be evaluated and graded to be deemed “organic.” It’s either pass or it’s fail (or flunk, get it?). The confusingly named “conventional” foods of today’s world are not organically grown the way God designed them to be.
- “As free spirited as Italy”: One year after my return to the church, I set out on my first solitary vacation. It was a pilgrimage to Italy to visit several churches and historic sites to learn more about the bruised but hardy past of Christianity. I think God is acknowledging the curiosity he has stirred into my spirit to find answers about him, even if that means taking cab, plane, train, car, or (Venetian) boat over 10 days in a country where I don’t speak the language.
Interpreting the Meaning
I reflected on how I interpreted the symbols in different ways before I realized what the saint was instructing me to do. This reminds me that, everyday, God offers us many blessings and we need to rise out of our often dull, dormant, uncreative, and selfish hearts and minds in order to fully recognize, appreciate, and accept his help.
I also reflected on the existence of that book. It’s as if there’s a book in heaven being written about each of our unique lives and we have the choice to make it a beautiful ending or a sour ending depending on the choices we make in this life.
Life is not easy but is any good story ever without conflict? The inherent sweetness is in the character, seemingly against all odds, rising above the conflict and adversity and doing what is good and just.