Stopping Dominoes

Stopping Dominoes

It all began with Duncan taking a bath. Seated nearby at a table, a small group of middle-aged women discussed how his great-grandfather’s health had deteriorated. In fact, he was about to die. Duncan listened intently—he’d never met the man and didn’t know he was even alive.

The scene changed. The setting was northern Ohio where his father’s side of the family lives and farms. Duncan challenged his father with burning questions:

“How come we’ve never seen him? Why didn’t we spend time with him?” Shocked and distraught, Duncan wept hard tears.

His father listened but failed to give any answer.

Then Duncan met his great-grandfather. The man was tender and kind. His presence radiated unconditional love. It felt like being with God.

Walk“I want to give you a gun,” said the great-grandfather. “It will be the best gun you’ll ever have.” He smiled. “Why don’t you come out to the place?”

“How far it is?” asked Duncan.

“Eight miles.”

Duncan turned to question his father in dismay. “And we’ve never been out there to see him?” A crushing sense of loss overwhelmed Duncan, and he wept for a second time.

So they traveled to the great-grandfather’s farm, and the patriarch showed them around. Though elderly and failing, his manner remained full of warmth and lovingkindness—soothing Duncan’s longing for a father’s love and acceptance. His father was there but remained a silent figure.

The great-grandfather spoke again to Duncan. “Now you pick out one of these guns and shoot it—any one you want. It doesn’t matter. And it will be the best gun you ever had.”

The dream ended there. Duncan gave me permission to share it with you.

This was a significant dream. Remember, dreams are highly symbolic. The biggest mistake is to interpret them too literally. Here are some things to consider. First of all, Duncan, his father, and his great-grandfather all share the same first name—Sterling—though their middle names vary. His grandfather, however, went by a different name—Edwin.

In real life, the great-grandfather was loving and kind to Duncan’s father in some measure. But he died before Duncan was born, so information about him only came through stories.

Duncan’s grandfather, Edwin, was not like that. He was emotionally shutdown and unavailable. “He seemed like a cigar-store Indian, a wooden statue of a man,” said my husband. “I can’t even remember his voice, because he hardly said anything.”

“Something must’ve happened to him,” I said. “Because it stopped the flow of fatherly love.”

iStock_000009299708SmallOnly God knows what went on between the great-grandfather and the grandfather. Many fathers have love in their hearts, but are awkward in giving it. Perhaps the great-grandfather was hard on his son, yet poured out affection on his grandchildren. Some men soften with age.

Still, as family names are handed down, God designed fathers to pass on their blessing of love and approval. But if that gets blocked or stilted, it’s very difficult for subsequent generations to give something they never received. Because Edwin didn’t give it to his son, Duncan’s father was unable to give it to him.

My writing mentor Cecil Murphey said, “What we don’t receive in childhood, we spend the rest of our lives seeking.”

MediationA domino effect can work negatively for eons. But with God, it doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion. Explore the symbolism in this dream with me…

Their shared name, “Sterling,” means pure, authentic, of the highest quality, matchless and incomparable. These adjectives describe God’s character of perfect love.

therapy centerThe bath points to redemption—a cleansing, healing, or baptism into a new way of life. God’s love can fill up the black hole in a man’s heart and change negative patterns.

In the dream, the kind great-grandfather represents Father God. He lived only 8 miles away. The love Duncan longed for was so close and yet so far.

I also thought of Eminem’s biopic film, “Eight Mile.” It’s titled after Eight Mile Road, which is a dividing line between urban Detroit and its upper-class suburbs—a statement about success versus poverty. In the film’s iconic song, “Lose Yourself,” he describes his struggle to cross that line into a different life, but along the way he loses touch with what really matters…

“God only knows, he’s grown farther from home, he’s no father. He goes home and barely knows his own daughter.” Eminem is also a fatherless son.

Still, the number 8 in biblical symbolism has to do with “new beginnings,” which matches the imagery of the bath. From God’s perspective, the dividing line has little to do with material success and failure. iStock_000000518484SmallIn some ways, you could say there are two kinds of people in the world—those who received their father’s love and those who didn’t. Spiritually speaking, it’s the same kind of line. (John 3:16)

God can help fatherless sons and daughters travel the eight miles, cross the dividing line, and receive the unconditional love they desperately need.

Finally, historically and in many cultures, the gift of a gun from father to son is a rite of passage. As each generation reaches the age of accountability, it symbolizes a baton of manhood. It connotes responsibility and authority in the best sense.

iStock_000026515548SmallIn the dream, the gun represents empowerment, equipping Duncan with the father’s love so he can pass it on. Since he didn’t get it from his father (the bystander), he has to receive it from God (the great-grandfather).

And the old man’s words ring true. “It will be the best gun you ever had.”

A fathers’s blessing is a matchless gift, enabling the best kind of power—the power to love.





  1. Powerful! I’m eager to reread and soak it in better. Thank you.

  2. The best gift ever! Yes. Love this. Thank you Susan.