Well, it wasn't on such a winter's day this time. It was on a summer's night. The Lord visited me in my sleep last night. I'm not sure why. Most nights I dream, but over the years I've got better at discerning between my dreams and God dreams. Still, it's hard to describe the sense of knowing that God was speaking.
I've been reading through the minor prophets recently. Pretty bleak stuff really, but Joel 2:29 is a beautiful promise of God's relief after Israel's judgment. Afterwards I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. You sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. This is the sermon text that Peter used to explain the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2 and the phenomena which followed.
Dreams and visions played an important role in the advancing of the Gospel in the early Church.
Think Paul's vision at his conversion, and his dream in Corinth telling him to stay and preach amidst opposition. Remember his dream during the shipwreck which assured those on board that they would be safe too? Think Peter's vision on the rooftop, before he visited Cornelius. Dreams and visions are an integral part of the Holy Spirit's indwelling and infilling of the believer. Visions come to us while we are awake, and my theory is that God communicates to me more in dreams than visions, because my mind and body rest long enough for Him to get a word in edgeways!
Of course, dream interpretation is not an exact science. It's more art than science. I'm wary of an exact 'dream code' approach which aims to decipher dreams. Although there may be some helpful principles of interpretation, we don't get given a secret code in scripture. What we need is the discernment of the Spirit, the wisdom of people who have walked with the Lord, and the authority of Scripture to bring clarity to our dreams.
One of the characteristics of dreams that have proved true and have significantly shaped my life, has been clarity rather than obscurity. And also, I tend to remember them clearly in the morning. Generally when that happens, I will write down what I remember. Habakkuk 2:3 talks about this. Write the vision down, make it plain so that a herald may run with it. Though it waits it's appointed time, it will not delay.
Whether it be visions or dreams, the gap between revelation, interpretation and application requires wisdom and patience. Things tend to get clearer over time, but we also forget them over time, so being a faithful recorder of dreams and visions is just good stewardship of God's communication.
Finally, a recent example of how God can use dreams to add weight to what He is saying to a congregation through the preached Word. Two Sundays ago, Nick Saltas preached a potent message from Ecclesiastes about Authority. The heart of his message was that one of the most counter-cultural
things we can do as Christ followers is to submit to flawed human authority. He called us to trust in a Sovereign God who would ultimately have his way, even through unjust authority. It was a difficult word for us in our culture of self-governenance, but one which was skilfuly given.
My wife, who very rarely claims to have God dreams, leans over to me during the second service, and says, "I had a vivid dream last night which is only making sense now that I'm hearing Nick's message."
She told me the gist of it, and I asked her to speak to the congregation after Nick finished, before we broke bread. This is the gist of what she said. "I dreamed that I went into an elevator, but it began to feel like it was getting smaller, like it was a trash compactor. I was terrified that the elevator was going to crush me but it didn't, it compacted and shaped me." She continued with her interpretation of the dream. "For some of us, we feel that submitting to authority, whether that be at work, marriage, family or church, is going to crush us. It will shape us, but not crush us. And God's promise is that it will ultimately take us higher. Submit to God and he will lift you up in due time."
Rynelle's sane, humble clarity added huge weight to the Word that had just been preached. People's hearts were pierced. It's a helpful example of how dreams can work as the Spirit confirms the preaching of His Word. I also believe it's a pertinent message for us as a church, and one worth reflecting on as we embark on a season of enlarged mission.
So in the meantime, I will record and reflect on what I dreamed last night. And pray that we all remain attentive to the whispers of our God in the day and in the night.