Ami Atkins is a former Kindergarten teacher turned developmental therapist. Her world was turned upside down when her dear husband died unexpectedly in January of 2013. She began writing at whenmercyfoundme.com as a 30 year old, childless widow. Her writings proclaim the good news of Jesus in the midst of her raw and honest expressions of grief.
I was running. Fear coursed through my body, adrenaline pushed me forward. Terror. Maybe that’s a better word. I paused, making a split-second decision.
Seized from behind, arms from nowhere pinned my own to my sides. A hand clapped over my mouth. Kicking, fighting, biting, I tasted blood. My attacker cursed, examining his hand. I heard myself scream.
Still fighting him, words registered.
“Lovee, Lovee, it’s ok. I’m here. You’re ok.”
Arms still held me. They were strong but tender. And the voice was familiar. My feet stopped kicking and arms stopped flailing. Desperately I turned toward him, burying my face in his chest. I still shook with great heaving shudders, my heart pounding, on the verge of hyperventilation. The fear was still just as real.
“Honey it’s ok. It was a nightmare. It wasn’t real. I’m here and you’re safe.” My husband stroked my hair, not letting me go.
It took several minutes for calm to return. He prayed peace and comfort over me. He dried my tears and kissed my forehead. Finally I turned back over. And he kept me close, his arms still around me from behind.
Until I got married I never realized how prone to nightmares I was. Perhaps that is because I don’t always remember them in the morning. When I’m awake, fear is not an adjective I’d use to describe my life. I don’t like scary things, of course, but I don’t live life dominated by fear. Yet my husband told me it wasn’t unusual for him to be awakened by my fearful kicking and thrashing in the night.
I do, however, remember the first nightmare after he died. Waking to the sound of my own voice screaming his name, touching his side of the bed and realizing he wasn’t there—just weeks after his death, it was too much to bear.
Sometimes I still have nightmares.
Just the other night I awoke with tears streaming down my face. I’d been crying in the dream. I was crying in real life too. Such nightmares about Jon are infrequent, but they still rattle me. I don’t know why I still have them two and half years after his death.
I guess it’s because I still love him. I guess it’s because I still miss him.
Time has vastly lessened grief’s intensity. Truly, “grieving” isn’t often a way I’d describe myself anymore. Days are abundant and joy-filled. I’d use words like vibrant, content, growing, and excited. Even most nights are peaceful. So, these days a nightmare is in stark contrast to the rest of my life.
When I still have a nightmare, I recall a few things.
Nightmares aren’t real.
But the God who keeps me safe is.
God is present in moments of fear whether danger is real or perceived. He is our safety. He is our peace. He is our refuge. I can say with the Psalmist,
“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD and He answered me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” Psalm 3:5-6
Ultimately, the psalmist’s declaration was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus, the true Shield. Deliverance comes from the “holy hill” of sacrifice, the same hill upon which Christ laid down his life.
To be safe is to know that nothing can harm my soul. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8). He is the Shield that absorbed the fireball of the Father’s wrath. He is the Shield that blocks the enemy’s fiery darts.
He is the Better Protector. Amen.
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8