Taking one of the stones of the place, [Jacob] put it under his head and lay down in that place. -Genesis 28:11b (NRSV)
I’ve been on a years-long quest to find the perfect pillow. Some pillows start out great, but quickly become flat or lumpy or dense and hard after a while, like resting my head on a sack of stones.
My wife says I flatten pillows because my head is too heavy. My tendency to have bizarre, chaotic dreams gives weight to her theory. No doubt these dreams mirror the bizarre chaos of waking life—processing the day’s events through both recognizable and ridiculous images—and I wake up shaking my heavy head. I blame the pillow. Other times, I’m certain these were more than dreams. These were visions: revelations from the deep subconscious, and I wake up clear-headed. I’m not sure if pillow quality factors in.
Unlike my rocky repose, Jacob’s stone-pillow slumber was an inspiring, divine vision, revealing God’s presence and assuring a prosperous path forward. How do I get to have one of those visions? Do I need an actual rock for a pillow? Probably not.
If dream life is influenced by waking life, can we cultivate inspiring visions instead of chaotic dreams? I want to say it requires a practice of pious contemplation, but it seems that God enters into our dreams when we most need that reassuring presence amidst the chaos of life. Those are the mornings we awake and proclaim that surely, God is in this place. And the pillow has nothing to do with it.
Wherever I lay my heavy head, God of wake and sleep, reveal visions of your promised presence, and show me the way through the chaos of waking life.