Once upon a time, I lived in a bubble.
The school that I attended in 2001 was nestled in the swamps of Merritt Island, Florida. I ate there, I worked there, I lived there. Rarely did I leave the grounds because my car had bit the dust (but not before this happened). Very little media made its way into my life. I never watched the news, read a newspaper, listened to the radio, went to the movies, etc.
So, yeah, I’d call that a bubble.
During these two years, thanks to the manner in which I had been sheltered, I found it particularly odd to wake up from a certain kind of dream about a certain celebrity. While it didn’t happen every night, I began to notice that every so often, I’d wake from an intense dream in which I was saving Britney Spears’ life. In a variety of scenarios, she’d be on the verge of peril and I’d be swooping in with everything in my power to get her to safety.
That’s weird, I’d think when I awoke. Why am I dreaming about Britney Spears? It’s not like I’ve heard her music lately. It’s not like I’ve seen her on the cover of a magazine. What could have triggered my brain? And didn’t I have a similar dream a while back?
When I’d wake from these dreams, I did the only thing that I knew how to do when I felt both a sense of urgency and bewilderment: I prayed.
You see, the Bible has a special verse nestled in the book of Romans, chapter eight, verse 26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Now, I didn’t know what the heck to pray for, but I trusted that as long as I was praying, the Holy Spirit would be interceding and making my prayers what they needed to be. While my own heart was moved and urgent, I was lacking a certain omniscience required to pray specifically to the point of the dream. So we were like a team in praying. I’d pray for any and everything that I could think of – Britney Spears, our government, Africa, friends, family, children, ministries, etc. – and the Holy Spirit would intercede and help in my weakened, ignorant state.
Well, fast forward to the year 2003 when I was on my second “date” with Brian. (I promise to one day catch you up on our gas station dates.) Feeling incredibly guarded and unsure as to why I was indulging these coffee dates on my lunch break, Brian broke my discomfort by producing a book of poetry. (Our dates were like kindergarden’s Show-N-Tell. The first night, he brought his guitar; the second night, poetry.) Brian pointed me to the page on which his poem had been published and my eyes moved from the top slowly working their way to the bottom. Once having reached the bottom, my gaze landed on the part that published the name of the author. Except that’s not what MY eyes saw. MY eyes and MY brain and MY heart read: Author: Britney Spears.
Flinching at the words, I shut my eyes, shook my head and held on to the choke in my throat for a minute. Wake up, Suzy! Look again! I then read the words: Author: Brian Lee Spears.
As I got to know Brian, he revealed his struggle with drugs and verified that in the last couple years there had been several nights in which he was sure he wouldn’t wake up the next morning, several nights in which he was afraid he might have overdosed and thought, So this is it. He didn’t understand why he never died because he was so sure that he should have.
It was then that I realized that I was never actually praying for Britney Spears. Here and there over the course of two years, I had actually been praying for Brian Spears; I just didn’t know it then because I had never met him.