Such dreams might have made sense if I was going through especially stressful times, but I wasn’t. It got to the point, however, that I prayed, “God, please help me to have good dreams.” What happened? More cables breaking. (I think my years working at the historic First National Center in downtown Oklahoma City and having elevator doors open between floors a few too many times, might have something to do with that particular dream.)
So, did God not answer my prayer? Did He not hear my prayer? Does He have a cruel sense of humor when it comes to “good and bad” dreams? On the contrary, I think He was helping me to see a greater truth about life: “things aren’t always as they seem.” My unreal dreams, like very real situations in my life, don’t always reveal everything that’s going on in the broad spectrum of living on this earth. Remember the Biblical story of Joseph? He was harassed, abused and sold by his brothers, but later proclaimed to these very men as they stood before him, the most powerful aid to Pharaoh, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” A nightmare turned into a miraculous, glorious story. This gives me hope, and yet…
It’s sometimes hard to find consolation in the fact that getting to that glorious ending often – maybe even always – requires being thrown into dark, scary pits. There’s a temptation to want to skirt the pit, to just throw up my hands and say, “Just sell me into slavery – I’ll go willingly.” There’s also a temptation to want to build up my own fortress and not let the scary brothers get near me. That option is perhaps the most troubling of all to me.
I’ve watched others build up these fortresses – certain groups in society and in Christendom who isolate themselves and make rules for themselves to live a certain way – all in order to demonstrate their particular views about truth. Not that having standards is bad, but often it’s not truth that’s ultimately reflected – at least when it comes to Christianity. For example, when you believe that spiritual maturity means that a woman bears children until she is no longer physically able and sews all their clothes and cooks meals months in advance, what do you do with the divorced mother who goes back to college to get a better job to support her family? Apparently, you do the same thing you do to the tattooed teenager and alcoholic – you limit your exposure to them until they are finally brought around to understanding your version of “the truth.” A nightmare indeed – and worst of all, not an accurate picture of the gospel.
Jesus, who identified himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” was constantly going out of his way to meet sinners where they were. He did not avoid the thieves, adulteresses, covetous, diseased or ethnically different. When he encountered them, he didn’t hand them a list of rules or point to another group of people and say, “Go, be like them.” He said, “Go and sin no more, ” a command simple enough for anyone to understand but pregnant with enough implications to demand a lifetime of attentiveness.
Am I oversimplifying things? Afterall, I do know that the God-inspired authors of the Bible, did go on to reveal many insights into what obedience is; e.g., “Children, obey your parents…” “Be tender-hearted, forgiving one another…” etc. etc. But there are many cases where I don’t find that obedient living looks the way some people say it does, especially when they want me to believe that their truth avoids messy, inexplicably difficult nightmares. How can they be so sure that these so-called nightmares aren’t truly intended to ultimately reveal miraculous beautiful endings? I think Joseph, the ruler and the dreamer, would be saddened by this version of truth.
My own experience has proven another truth, that God does work all things for good for those who love Him. And when this is hard to believe, when I ask for good dreams and get bad, I also find comfort in this: “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:11-13)