I dream. I dream a lot. I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean I dream every night while I am asleep.
And I remember my dreams. That may be because I accept as true the Scripture: ”For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” Job 33:14-18
Now that doesn’t mean I’ve had “visions” as the prophets of old. I don’t even think that’s what this passage is talking about. I think it means that we should pay attention to the content of our dreams because it is one way that God speaks to us. In fact, I think He sometimes waits for us to stop all the whirring and spinning of our conscious minds so that He can be heard through the quiet of our subconscious minds.
Well, enough theology. Let me tell you about last night’s dream. It was powerful to me, very moving, very meaningful.
It was a Sunday morning. Worship was about to start, and I had finished my “pre-sermon” ritual (a topic for another post, perhaps). Though I was the pastor of the church, it was not FBC Barnwell where I now serve. The building was different, more modern. The worship center was semicircular like an ampitheater, or perhaps an orchestra pit, with front rows lower than the pulpit and successive rows gradually rising until the back pews were at eye level with the speaker.
As I walked into the sanctuary, sermon in head, I was startled by several young people, who had been active in the collegiate ministry in Clarion, PA. They had been waiting for me to walk in so that they could surprise me. I began to hug them. As I did, I looked around and saw that the room was full of those former students. Maybe three hundred of them. I recognized their faces. Somehow, they had organized a trip down for a surprise visit. My heart overflowed with joy!
The congregation was a bit confused about what was going on. People were standing around because the seating had been taken up by this unexpected influx. Then, as the service began, I discovered that the worship leader was in on this surprise. He had arranged for some of the young people to speak briefly, sharing the story of their pilgrimage through Clarion. Some even had videos or slides to show. Some wanted to sing. I became uncomfortable because this was going to drag on and the service would run long. Really long! First I realized I had to cut back the sermon. Then I realized I had to eliminate the sermon. Then I realized that the service was going to run extremely long even without the sermon.
Finally, after a parade of young people, I had a chance to speak. I felt pressure because the congregation was clearly ready to leave. I had to be brief. So I just asked, “How many of you came to know Christ while in Clarion, or got back on the path in your walk with God after you had strayed?” Hands went up all over the room. Choked up a bit, I just looked with silent awe that God would allow my family and me to have been part of that.
Then I woke up.
I told Debi about the dream. She asked what I thought it meant. I’m not really sure. I think it may have to do with several factors, a few streams that all came together to form one river of thought.
One factor may have been a very sweet Facebook post recently by Megan Hampton. She talked about our home being full of college students all the time. She wanted her family’s heart and home to be open like that. I replied, truthfully, that we felt as if we were the ones who had been blessed by their presence.
A second factor may have been Thanksgiving, when all nine of my children, plus two spouses, two grandchildren, and an unofficial son, all gathered at my brother’s home. His family was there, too, and we met baby Olivia for the first time. At one point, an old joke came up about my “retirement plan” – 6 weeks apiece at each of my children’s homes. Ben laughingly said, “I guess that’s one long-term benefit of having so many kids.” I responded, “Do you want to know the real benefit of so many kids?” “What?”, he asked. “This!” I said, motioning to look around this house full of family, full of joy “This is the real benefit.” And in some sense, that’s also how I think of those “college kids.” They’re my family, too.
A third factor may have been the passage of Scripture we read as a family last night. Paul asked the Corinthians, at least twice, “Do I need a letter of recommendation for you? Aren’t YOU my letter of recommendation?” He talked about the profound mystery of God storing the treasure of the gospel in jars of clay, and that he would “partner” with us in the work of redemption. Imagine that – the infinite and perfect God partnering with finite and flawed humans to restore a fallen cosmos! That’s breathtaking to me. Like the gospel itself, it’s almost too incredible to be believed. So I found myself in wonderment about this just before bedtime. Maybe that played a part in my dream.
Or maybe I just needed comfort. Maybe I needed reassurance that all the hardships of ministry, all the sacrifice I’ve asked of my family, has not been in vain. That the precious souls of precious people have been touched. And even if the impact was minimal, still it was good.
And that’s how I felt when I awoke. That God is great. That God is good.
What a dream.