25 April 2012

In My Wildest Dreams

I had two conversations yesterday about dreams.  Two separate people sat in my living room and shared the vivid dream they had each experienced the night before . . . both about Galmi . . . both very spiritual . . . both about hurting people.

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!!!).


cultivatelove said...

This is amazing. In so many different ways. I think, out of God's deep love for you/us - he shakes "our" theology because He.is.SO.much.MORE. I am sorry to hear about all the pain and the suffering. I went through a different kind when I was in Guatemala. But this. This is the Father's heart - beyond our understanding but beyond our wildest imaginations for sure. And more LOVE than we will ever know. I'm excited to see what more he wants to show you....! 

Aimee Piller said...

I woke up at 2 AM and as I so often do to try to rest my mind from the million things running through it,  I decided to read facebook.  I saw your blog link and know it is always for good reading.  I say that so you know that my ramblings occur at 2 AM and may not be coherent.  It sounds as though you were raised in a religious context not so different than I.  I have learned many things on this journey or life and have many more to learn.  I think there is a time in everyone's life that they have a "desert experience."  Moses spent years in the wilderness of Midian, David did his time there too running from Saul, even Jesus had his 40 days.  In this desert experience we are stripped of all of our original comforts, beliefs, and understandings of who we thought we knew God was.  Your story of the man telling you he saw Jesus reminds me very much of my own story in this journey of life.  I remember looking around at others around me and realizing that some of them knew the Lord in ways I could only dream of.  But instead of "waiting upon the Lord" I decided to go looking for Him and found myself in my own "desert experience."  My journey is different from yours, but I assume my quiet alone moments when the Spirit did his work in me are not much different from yours or Moses's or David's.  The Spirit scrapes us of ourselves so that we can really see God with our own eyes.  We can take comfort that we are surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses" that we do not walk that journey down the dark, desolate desert path alone.  Sometimes the Spirit uses a dream, a song, an old friend's blog, to refocus our sights and know another piece of our God's wonder.  One day He will bring us to the full understanding of Him and we will find our true love, our heart's deepest desire in all of His glory.  In the meantime we journey on with His Spirit to help us.  I remember the story of Job who at the beginning of the book of Job was described as one who feared God.  By the end of his journey of suffering, he was a man who saw God.  I want to see God, just as your patient's father did in that room that day.  If suffering is the only way for me to rid myself of me so I can see, then all I want is to see.  But I am so thankful for the Helper provided as I journey on. 

Thanks, as always, for sharing your journey.    Grace and peace.

Heidi Satterfield said...

I think that sometimes we put God in a box, nice and packaged. Who are we to assume that God does or doesn't reveal himself in a certian way?  I am coming to see as I mature that He isn't in a box and we can experience him in so many ways!  God has given me complete thoughts that I know were not mine.  He actually was speaking to me.  I have heard countless stories about others like yourself living in other parts of the world experiencing the Spirit in much more visual and tangable ways.  If He shows himself in those ways and actually speaks to us...then why wouldn't he use dreams to remind us of His truth and help us experience Him.
You are doing a great work and I think that because you are out of comfortable America and working to help others experience God, you are going to get to experience the Spirti in a deeper and closer way then me.  I know that experience is coming at a great cost to you emotionally, etc. but you are getting so much closer to Him and it sounds like he is revealing himself in such a neat way to you!
Keep, keeping on Sister!

Bethany Reamer said...

amen, sister.  absolutely.  we wait with open, trusting, often broken hearts... and i do believe that He can show up in any way He chooses.  i think that's what makes me love Him more!  thank you.  your words bring me joy.

Bobnrobn said...

DJB -- HE can do whatever it is HE desires, through whomever HE desires, however HE desires, whenever HE desires,  to bring glory to HIMSELF in the furtherance of the kingdom!  I cannot say I have ever had a dream that felt more like a message, a lesson or a comfort; but I do believe with all of my heart that HE is more active and creative than my miniscule brain can comprehend.   Little N's dad is proof enough for me -- he saw Jesus in SIM Hospital-Galmi!!  Halleleujah!!

Chcpe said...

This is a good one, but one that seems simple...when we are open to hear God, He will speak. When you look at the creativity in nature, and even more so in the miracle that is the human body, you quickly realize what an interesting and highly creative Maker we have. To believe that a God with that kind of imagination isn't creative in the way he speaks to us would be...well, silly. We just have to be tuned in and listening, not distracted and living with God in our box thinking. God doesn't think and act in the box...he communicates with us when we realize that He has no box. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes, our ears, and our minds, the more we rest on Him. You are listening when God speaks! Sadly I am doing more talking, questioning, requesting, asking...and my lack of listening mutes the Communicator. My prayer for me (and you) is that we are still and know that He is God...that when he speaks we are open enough to listen as creatively as the Spirit is in doing his work. What a mighty God we serve...creative beyond our wildest imaginations! "Word of God speak, let it pour down like rain...". Open my eyes (and my ears) Lord I want to see (and hear) Jesus!

richelle said...

Hi Deb ~
We met at SLC this year - but I've read your blog from time to time for awhile and thoroughly enjoy it. I come from a similar background and remember my short term year in SE Asia - that was the first time I considered that something other than what I'd always been taught might be true...

Funny thing - the Holy Spirit has never spoken to me through dreams or visions... but through déjà vue...

Where when the moment happens, I'll remember the déjà vue experience as clearly as if it were yesterday (although often it was many years before)... the first time it was so mundane. I was sitting in a college class, "using computers/technology in education." I detested the class, prof was as boring as anything... but sitting there one afternoon, I knew I'd been there, seen that scene, had that experience before. And then I remembered a season as a jr in high school where that scene kept reappearing randomly in my dreams over a period of several months.

So... I've come to look at déjà vue like a little window from God into the future... and when it happens, it is like God saying - "See, you are right where I knew you'd be; I'm taking you exactly where I want you to go. It's OK... keep seeking to follow me... I'll make sure you stay on the path."

It has happened 5 or 6 times since that first experience back in college - and each time, it is such a huge comfort... the Holy Spirit has encouraged my heart each time it has happened.

I think for me, the key thing has been I don't go looking for it - but am simply learning to accept those little glimpses of the future as gifts from God, if and when they happen.

I love that our Savior knows just what lifelines we need and just when He needs to toss them our way because we lose our focus on Him and all we can see are the waves and scariness and hardness and darkness all around.


Michael Chaney said...

First, thanks for sharing.
Second, I have had the same kinds of visions, even in Galmi.  Mostly, times of prayer in which I could see myself somewhere I was not and had never been, often talking with God, or listening.  It was an interesting moment when I realized that my faith is not founded on the Bible.  By that I mean that my faith is based on my relationship with Jesus, through the Spirit.  But the Bible is my concrete guide.  It is my ruler, my calipers.  But it is not my foundation.  It feels radical even to write that, because I am fully convinced of the inerrancy and authority of the Bible as God's perfect Word.  But my faith is deeper than even that book,   it is Spirit founded.  I still feel as though I have not explained myself fully, but I will stop here because I dont know how else to say it.  Dont worry that I am off base in this, if that is a concern, then trust that there is simply a miscommunication rather than error. 
Wow.  I just remembered several dreams I had while in Galmi.
Preface: before leaving for Africa I was talking with missionary friends of mine who spend several years in Niger.  They told me that Galmi was a dark place, that I would feel the spiritual conflict.  
While I was there it was certainly less physically evident than I expected, but far more prevalent in my dreams.  I distinctly remembered having dreams set in my mind by Satan.  Terrible dreams that I should probably talk to someone about now that I think about it.  So wicked, so vile, so perverse that I knew they were not my own.  They were set in my head by my enemy.  On the other hand, I also had moments when I could see, or hear God.  Right beside me.  Answering me when I called, embracing me as I fell.  
I have rambled here, and it is far from 2am.  Thank you for sharing, and being used to bring back my memories.  I am praying for you and thinking of you and my Galmi family often now as I approach one year.

Megan S said...

I didn't read all the other comments because I just wanted to tell you something. It's real. And those are profound gifts he's given you. They are gospel-centered and deeply personal and real. I was so moved Deb. Hearing God's words to you were encouragement for me too. It touched a secret, soft spot that only Jesus can go and it felt so sweet. Thank you dear friend for sharing. 

I was just talking to Justin about a time in my life when dreams and such were a regular occurance in my life and the difference now. There are times when one person might need a gift from God like a dream or vision. It motivates one's faith in a completely unique way. However, as is more typical, our faith comes from hearing, and not seeing. That is how I think my relationship with God is now. I needed a season of powerful experience to help my faith. It's not likely for everyone. Now I walk by faith in a different way but still with joy and power. Some days, some moments, I still experience God as before and it's refreshing. Honestly, like I did while reading your post. My daily experience is more common, but just as much a gift.

It's documented too that the experience of those working in our line of work and the people we encounter have exponentially more experiences like you've experienced. It's not foreign to them. It's normal coming from such spiritual cultures. God uses the cultural context to speak to people. It's awesome.

Thank you for suffering alongside those who suffer. It's bringing out beautiful things in you that you share with us, your friends, your audience. May the Helper increase your faith as you trust in Him.

Tara N said...

Hi Deb,

I love reading your blog and getting updates about what is going on over there.  I  just had to share that I do believe that God uses dreams/visions.  I never used to.  I came from a similar background and held similar beliefs about dreams (i.e. that they were a thing of the past, etc).  However, I have had three dreams during my life that convinced me otherwise. God does use dreams and the Holy Spirit is more amazing than we often give credit for.

Mamastouff said...

Deb, God wants us to know that He is so much bigger than we can imagine...and I believe He can and still does things outside of the box of religion. When my father died I knew that He had accepted Christ as Saviour but somewhere in my heart I still wondered...one morning while I was worshipping in church, the only way I can explain it is that I saw my Daddy in heaven dressed in white praising God!! I never doubted again...love your honesty sister and your heart that loves our Lord Jesus...

Elisabeth Barnett said...

I read this just befor going up to Paris for a mission lèpre meeting so didn't respond.
I do believe in seeing visions, dreams etc however there needs to be discernment and how to distinguish with autosuggestion. I am sure as an OT you studied some psychiatrie sore aware of the difficulties of interpretation.
I am reading a fascinating novel which envoles a dream or is it a phaton based in Paris by Rose du Taissignay
The retired OT

Glenyss Barnham said...

Hi Deb. I met you in February when I had the wonderful pivilege of visiting Galmi for just a couple of hours - and there you were! I love reading your blog and was so encouraged by this entry. I had an experience a few of years ago - driving to work on day, thinking about the day ahead of me and suddenly - as out of nowhere - this thought came to me. Your daughter will have a son and he will make an impact in this world. I was stunned and wondered if I had imagined it. Eight months ago my daughter had her first child, a son! I can't explain it anymore than you but somehow I just knew.
I agree with what others have said that we can't fit God into neat packages - he meets us in his way at our point of need - what a wonderful God we have!

Deb. said...

Thank you Aimee!  

You are so right . . . the details of the journey looks different for each of us, but we are seeking to know the same Jesus, and therefore what we find at the end of the path is Him, regardless of whether your road is paved with tar and mine with sand!

Deb. said...

You're completely right about the box . . . He doesn't belong in there!  

Deb. said...

Just to set the record straight, momma, your brain is anything BUT minuscule!

Deb. said...

And, boy, does He show up!!!

Deb. said...

Hey!  Who you callin' silly??  :)

Yeah, that's the key, isn't it?  'Tuned in and listening'!

Deb. said...

I like that!  'Déjà vu like a little window from God into the future.'  Yeah . . . sometimes I think He gives us those little reminders and hints to help our unbelief.

I'm thankful for your experience in SE Asia . . . I had a faith-changing experience in India years ago . . . again, coming from a background that limited the unseen things . . . and being a light in such a dark place forced me to reevaluate what I believed.

Deb. said...

Michael, thank you for reading and responding!  Yes, Galmi is a dark place . . . and I feel right now that I am in the midst of one those spiritual conflicts you mentioned.  But, as you experienced first hand, it is a place where God is felt and He is ever present!

Deb. said...

I couldn't agree with you more Megan!  And sometimes I wonder if God works in certain ways more with other people and cultural groups than others . . . those more open to it put more weight and value on it.

Wishing the desert wasn't so big and could come for tea!

Deb. said...

Thanks Tara! 

Deb. said...

HOW BEAUTIFUL!  I look forward to meeting him one day!

Deb. said...

Yes, I agree, the interpretation does require discernment . . . and they won't necessarily be literal every time . . . and one particularly needs to be careful with interpretation when currently on malaria meds! :)

Deb. said...

Thank you Glenyss!  If I remember correctly, you were in the small group passing through for a tour on your way to Maradi.  

And blessings to your new grandson!

Deb. said...

Thank you!  

Nancy said...

Hi Deb, As I'm reading your blog and everyones comments about dreams I thought how I dream but never seen to remember them much when I wake up. But I do experience deja vue which does gives me a glimpse into the dreams I had.  I like richelle's comment that it is like a little window from God into the future/conformation that I'm on the right track.

I also experienced the darkness when I lived in Japan.  It can cause you to sink if you don't hold onto the Lord or grow spiritually as He guides you through. So hold on tight and never let go.

Silvia said...

Psalm 145:17...God knows the entire course of your life. I thank you for let me know your "normal" experiences or that extraordinary ones.God is working in ways that we cannot see or understand. Blessed be your serving heart! Silvia from Roumania