The Bible is full of stories about dreams . . . Jacob and his ladder . . . Joseph and multiple anti-fraternal night visions . . . Daniel and his apocalyptic revelations. I grew up learning these dreams and believing in the power of the God who gave them.
But I also grew up being told by my religious influencers that dreams are no longer used by God to communicate with His people. That the canon of the Bible is the final revelation of God to man and to believe that His Spirit would speak to an individual through a dream was an extremist position . . . and besides, all those gifts were for a time, which has ended.
And then I came to Galmi. And the conservative dream theology I had bought into was slowly being picked apart.
It's 4am and I can't sleep. It happens . . . and this week it's been happening a little more frequently. I tossed and turned and fought to return to my REMs . . . but I finally surrendered to the lost battle and began thinking (again) about the dreams I had heard yesterday. Which of course, led me to the natural conclusion: write a blog about it.
(Before I go any further, I'd just like to say that what I write today is from my own first-hand experience and struggles with faith. It is intended for open discussion, and is being written in a desire to examine and learn, not to fight or rebel. It is about my journey . . . not to question or debate what you may believe . . . and not in anyway to tell you that you are wrong. I know many of you who read my writings come from a similar doctrinal background to my own, but more you don't. My desire is to better understand my misconceptions of who the Helper is . . . if your own views are being challenged, consider, maybe the prompting isn't coming from me.)
It all started in 2008 when I first visited Galmi. During a particularly non-discript-but-difficult-enough day, I had a picture flash through my mind's eye. At first I thought it was a memory, it was so vivid. But as I replayed it, I realized it wasn't an experiential-recollection, it was more of a literary image . . . a visual foreshadowing, if you will. All in a split second.
I saw myself standing on top of a cliff. I looked out over a dense mountain range clothed in rich forests. Below me was a vast valley. I couldn't see into the valley, as it was hidden by the blanket of a thick grey storm cloud. I knew that I was about to pass through that valley . . . and I knew that I would get to the other side. But the anticipation of what that storm was about to bring terrified me.
About a year later, before I left for France, I was visiting my parents at Camp-of-the-Woods. I went for a walk down the beach with two dear family friends (who also happen to be faithful supporters and tremendous cheerleaders of my work here). It was just a random stroll on the sand. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary.
But suddenly, while R. was telling me about her son, there was that flash again . . . that blink-of-a-moment picture where I saw nothing but cracked-scorched ground:
The soil was parched and desperate for a drink. There was nothing and no one. But I stood there, looking around. Suddenly there was a little boy to my left . . . he was wearing dirtied white ethnic robes, and a white cap. His skin was tanned from the sun and a long heritage of turbulence. He was holding a prosthetic leg.It took me months to recount these stories to anyone. Mainly because I thought I was crazy. After all, dreams and visions were for Biblical times . . . not the 21st century. I tried to forget these snapshots . . . they weren't memories . . . they were just day-dreams . . . surely they meant nothing . . . because, after all, my theology wouldn't allow me to accept that Jesus might have something to say to me, especially in such an out-of-my-doctrinal-box way.
And then I read Charles Swindoll's book Flying Closer to the Flame. It wasn't about dreams . . . I'm not even sure he mentioned the traditionally debated 'gifts of the Spirit' again after the preface. What it did do was force me to reconsider my position on the activeness of that other person of the Trinity. I was convicted that in my own life I had lassoed the Spirit and tied His hands. I wasn't allowing Him to accomplish His work, because I didn't believe in His complete job description!
(Hey there Baptist, stay with me now . . . don't run away yet!)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said 'But the Helper, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the word gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful' (15:26&27). Paul's first letter to the church in Thessolonica opens with a reminder that the Holy Spirit was bringing them the gospel (1:4-7) . . . it wasn't only written in the chronicles of Jesus' life or the letters these young-church leaders were sending.
Reading through the Acts of the Apostles, over and over again, we see men filled with the Holy Spirit . . . they knew they were different from before Pentecost . . . they knew they were compelled to preach, even to the point of death . . . they knew the Church was going to rock the world . . . they knew that the Disciple-Life that Jesus had given them was going to be accomplished through this Helper. They didn't have a leather-bound NewTestament to go running back to, they were in the midst of writing it, for goodness sake!
But they KNEW.
They knew because the Holy Spirit was telling them . . . they knew because they believed.
Back in September, my theology was shaken again. And for the past seven months, I have wrestled to come to terms with what I believe.
And when I say 'theology' I'm not talking about Jesus and His grace. That will never budge. No, I am talking about the way the Holy Spirit works to reveal the grace that Jesus died to give us and the hope of Heaven that He provided when He was raised from the dead.
I shared bits and pieces of Little N.'s story before (here, here, here and here), yet there is so much I didn't write. And the last days of her six-year life have been playing over and over in my mind. With each patient I lose, I revisit the journey of doubt that her death triggered. I question and struggle and look to reconfirm the promises I believe the Spirit gave me.
The day after Little N. died, her father took my hand, and with tears in his eyes, and face toward the ground, he thanked me. I was confused . . . he had just lost his little girl whom he dearly loved, but here he was, thanking me. The only words I could muster were 'I work for Jesus.' He looked me in the eye and said 'Here, in this place, we see Jesus!'
For weeks I was haunted by his words . . . he was seeing something I could not. While this simple man was finding the Comforter, I was questioning His presence. When Little N. was experiencing His joy, I was doubting that He was even in this place. I was angry. Angry because the Healer didn't do His job. Angry because He hadn't explained to me why.
And then one night, I had a dream.
I was in Galmi when suddenly everything turned white. I could see Jesus in the distance. Beside him was a little girl wearing a white hospital-gown that draped down to her shins. Suddenly, Jesus was next to me, and the girl began running and skipping and playing, still in the distance . . . and I knew it was Little N. Jesus spoke to me. But I couldn't hear His words.Within a short time, my soul was more weary than it had ever been and I left Niger for a couple of weeks of rest. I was empty. I was exhausted. And I was hurting.
On the airplane, I found my seat, turned on my iPod, and was asleep before we took off.
When I awoke, tears were streaming down my cheeks. I had been dreaming. It was the same dream; only this time, when Jesus spoke, I could hear Him:
As we stood there watching Little N. play, Jesus softly said to me 'Deb. it's okay, you can be angry. But don't be angry at Me. I didn't do this. And it makes me even more angry than you.'When the dream ended and my eyes opened (and I realized I was crying in my sleep in the middle of an airplane) I heard to lyrics I was listening to:
And there will be a day with no more tears and no more pain and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place will be no more, we'll see Jesus face to face. But until that day, I'll hold on to You always.It was a song about Heaven, and I knew that Little N. was there with Jesus.
This belief was completely contrary to my theology! I struggled with the though of it . . . but I knew.
Just this past Monday morning, a severely burned seven-year-old that I have been caring for died. Again I struggled through the 'why' of two weeks of immense suffering. After work I went out to the airstrip with my iPod and my thoughts. With the background music in my ears, I yelled out to God: WHY DID THIS BOY HAVE TO SUFFER IN A HOSPITAL BED FOR TWO WEEKS?!?!
And as I walked back and forth to nowhere, the Helper said to me, 'Deb. do you remember your dreams?'
'What dreams?' I asked . . . in a quite, un-missionary-like, snappy tone.
'You know which ones.'
Like a stubborn child, I (internally) crossed my arms and furrowed my brow as I admitted a rotten 'Well, maybe.'
'Those dreams were from Me to you. I have chosen not to tell you the dreams I gave H.A. I assure you, those suffering weeks, as you call them, were not wasted.'
So, here's my question (or rather, reward to you for reading this in it's entirety) . . . what do you think? Have you ever had a dream that felt more like a message? Or a lesson? Or a comfort? Is it possible that He is more active and creative than our fear-feuled limitations want Him to be? What do you have to say. Please . . . I want to hear from you this time (I say enough around here as it is!!!).