Regular readers know that we have not established a cut-off time for a review of Real Marriage. Most of the blog posts here have specifically discussed just chapter 7 of the book. Having established that there was a striking overlap in concepts and terms between "Grace and Disgrace" in the Driscoll book and chapter 9 of Dan Allender's The Wounded Heart, we've also discussed how a large chunk of chapter 7 of the Driscoll book seems to focus more attention on the emergence of the nascent Re:Lit line of books than on what happened to Grace. And Grace Driscoll has no reason to feel a need to be detailed about what happened to her. We're basically done with chapter 7, probably.
However, there's been something about chapter 1 that has gnawed at my memory for a while and I've been able to establish what it is. I've written about how the revelations in the 2012 book were depressing to me because of the light they cast retroactively on the history of the Driscolls and Mars Hill.
Assuming the account of Mark Driscoll's nightmare prior to Ashley's birth happened precisely as related it means that there may have been at least two nightmares in which Mark Driscoll, by his account, woke up, threw up, and stayed up in reaction to a nightmare in which he vividly saw someone sinning and/or being sinned against. First we'll get to the account in the bestseller and then we'll get to the account in Confessions of a Reformission Rev from 2006.
THE FIRST NIGHTMARE (chronologically speaking) IN THE NEWER BOOK
As famously recounted by Mark Driscoll in his NYT bestselling book, as he approached the birth of his first child, Ashley, and the launch of Mars Hill Church, he had a dream that shook him to his core.
Mark and Grace Driscoll
(c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
... One night, as we approached the birth of our first child, Ashley, and the launch of our church, I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was so clear it was like watching a film--something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive. I woke up, threw up and spent the rest of the night sitting on the couch, praying, hoping it was untrue, and waiting for her to wake up so I could ask her. I asked her if it was true, fearing the answer. Yes, she confessed, it was. [emphasis added] Grace started weeping and trying to apologize for lying to me, but I honestly don't remember the details of the conversation, as I was shell-shocked. Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her. But God told me to marry Grace, I loved her, I had married her as a Christian, we were pregnant, and I was a pastor with a church-plant with young people who were depending on me.
So this nightmare predated the birth of Ashley.
THE SECOND NIGHTMARE (chronologically speaking) IN THE OLDER BOOK
However, the nightmare he mentions in Confessions of a Reformission Rev seems to have taken place a few years after Ashley was born and was a nightmare he considered to be a satanic attack. It's not possible to know how many nightmares Mark Driscoll has had over the years but since the nightmare about Grace mentioned in Real Marriage was explicitly described as prior to Ashley's birth the nightmare mentioned in Confessions of a Reformission Rev would have to have been about a different person and a different event. Or so it would seem. Let's see what the account is for the lead-up to this dream.
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
My family also started coming under spiritual attack. At one point, my daughter Ashley, who was only a few years old, started having a really bad attitude. [emphasis added] Despite days of repeated discipline her behavior did not improve, and I was befuddled as to why. Late one night I went in to check on her, and she was still awake. I asked her why she was not sleeping, and she began to cry but refused to tell me. I prayed over her, and eventually she told me that for days she had not slept because "bad angels" kept showing up in her room, saying bad things about Jesus and pulling her hair when she tried to sleep. They scared her by saying that if she told me, they would kill me. She had been acting up for a few days because she was sleep deprived, and I had been disciplining her sternly because I was worn out and on edge. I broke down and wept openly for the first time I can remember in my adult life and held my daughter, praying over her and repenting to God for allowing the Enemy to drive a wedge between my daughter and me.
... During this difficult season, I was burned-out, overworked, out of shape, stressed, and had picked up a nervous twitch in my eye along with ongoing acid reflux and high blood pressure. I was not sleeping much, and my sleep was often interrupted due to stress that kept me awake, thinking. I would also often wake up after a prophetic dream or spiritual attack to pray strategically, which only contributed to the fatigue. [emphasis added] But thanks to growing insights on how to win spiritual battles, I was optimistic that we would weather the storm and that the church would survive.
So during this period a few years after Ashley's birth Mark Driscoll was run ragged physically and emotionally. The church had been booted from its older location and was essentially being run from the Driscoll house for about two years in a row. This is mentioned, perhaps, in the fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness. That's the set-up of physical and mental limits. This would have been well before the Earl building or getting what has now become the Ballard campus. So by Mark Driscoll's account his health was at a low ebb during this period when he and Grace were hosting the church from their house. All of that background leads up to ... :
from page 122-123 (continued)
Then I had the worst experience of my whole life.
I went to bed one night hoping to get caught up on sleep. In the middle of the night, I had a prophetic type of dream that was like other prophetic dreams I had previously except it did not include Scripture that clarified its meaning, because it was from Satan. I cannot go into great detail about the dream because it would impugn the character of someone else. Something horrendous happened to this person that I was not present to witness. But my dream was the equivalent of a horrifying film that showed me every gruesome detail of the worst day of their life. I was not present for the sin they committed, but I told them about my dream later and they confirmed the very graphic details that I saw.
The dream was so vivid that I felt sick and woke up just in time to run into the bathroom and throw up in the toilet. I went downstairs and spent the rest of the night sitting on the couch, staring blankly into the dark and asking God to allow me to do anything but be a pastor. I just wanted to be done with ministry and do something, anything, that would not kill me before I turned thirty. [emphasis added]
For weeks, I watched the mental film every night as I tried to sleep. I knew it was an accusation but could not get it to stop, and so the torment continued night after night (Rev 12:10b). Not knowing what to do, I withdrew from God and my wife and threw myself into my work to keep my mind occupied with something else. I sometimes worked all night just so that I would not have to go to bed and watch the nightmare yet again.
So in both cases the nightmare was vivid and when Mark Driscoll woke up he threw up and stayed awake the rest of the night sitting on the couch. In both cases Driscoll found the dream terrible and was also able to corroborate all the details of the dream were of an event that really occurred by directly consulting the person who was the subject of the nightmare. This dream in Confessions, however, clearly happened a few years after Ashley was born when she, too, was having significant sleeping trouble and Mark Driscolly, by his own account, was not in good physical or emotional health and since this was during the period in which he lived in a house he couldn't afford that was given to him on a lease-to-own setting because he was "too broke to qualify to buy anything beyond an outhouse" (Confessions, page 119). This was evidently a low ebb for Mark Driscoll physically, emotionally and financially since even this house was one where three single guys were renting extra rooms. It sounds like nightmares were almost "normal" for Driscoll during this stage of his life.
What is most striking about this post-Ashley-birth dream is that Driscoll stated unequivocally it was a satanic, accusatory dream. Nonetheless, he was able to confirm with the person whom the dream was about that all the graphic details in the dream were true. To back up a bit, Driscoll got to this narrative by saying "Then I had the worst experience of my whole life" and yet went on to describe nothing that happened to him personally but a nightmare about someone else sinning and having a horrendous experience along the way. So if the dream of the worst day of another person's life was the worst experience in Driscoll's life it's difficult to know for certain why Mark having a nightmare about someone else would be traumatic since there's no way to know who the subject of the dream was. Since in Confessions Driscoll wrote that he could not share the nature of the dream because sharing the dream would impugn someone else we don't have reason to suppose Mark Driscoll's going to share that dream or its contents now. To do so would impugn their character.
Which, well, does Mark Driscoll really have a history of refusing to impugn the character of others after 17 years in ministry? Was he afraid to impugn the character of people he disagreed with as William Wallace II on the old unmoderated Midrash? This reticence on Driscoll's part in the 2006 book seems mysterious.
By contrast, in the Real Marriage account, Driscoll seems to display no hesitation at all in explicating what the nightmare was, why it was crushing for him, and how it impacted his marriage. The Real Marriage account is short, blunt and to the point. It even culminates in Driscoll stating that "Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her." So the differences between the two accounts are as striking as the similarities. Mark Driscoll's account of a dream he had years after Ashley's birth and Mark's account of the dream he had before her birth could be two completely separate incidents but both nightmares caused him to wake up, throw up, and not be able to sleep for a whole night. In both cases Driscoll was able to verify the details of the nightmare directly with the subject of the nightmare.
At the risk of putting this in terms only a student of biblical literature might even think of, this "may" be construed as a potential "synoptic" problem or the two accounts may just be that and have no connection.. Precisely why the post-Ashley dream was a satanic accusatory dream even though all the details of events in the dream were confirmed is something we simply can't enquire into. Perhaps it's possible that the post-Ashley nightmare has no connection to the pre-Ashley nightmare. In Real Marriage Mark Driscoll's account states that the dream as "the kind of revelation I sometimes receive". It would seem we're implicitly supposed to trust the revelation was a divine revelation but in light of the 2006 statement in Confessions we have a precedent from none other than Mark Driscoll himself that a revelatory dream that reveals true events from the past does not have to be construed as divine. The similarities and dissimilarities between the Confessions of a Reformission Rev nightmare story and the Real Marriage nightmare story are disturbing. Given the frequency with which, by Mark Driscoll's account, he was having nightmares he considered spiritual attacks, nobody but possibly Mark Driscoll could know whether these different accounts refer to a single recurring nightmare or if nightmares of these sorts are distinct but recurring for Mark Driscoll.
We can, however, at least consider these two narratives from Confessions and Real Marriage with Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage simulcast event coming up at the end of the month. Whether this is a case of two completely unrelated incidents in which Mark Driscoll had nightmares about different people, both of whom he knew intimately enough to corroborate dream details with; or whether this may constitute what may be called a "synoptic problem" is impossible to establish. But this disturbing similarity and dissimilarity in narrative is another detail that's been gnawing at me that no reviews of Real Marriage even touched upon when the book was first released.