I don’t dream in my sleep much these days. My nights are far more likely to be interrupted by the need to pee or the cries of my two-year-old son than by a dream…which is why I believe God spoke to me through my dreams this week: Three nights in a row I had very vivid dreams with embedded life-lessons. I want to share the dreams and the lessons with you so we can all benefit from His wisdom.
The First Dream: Tuesday, August 28th
In this dream I experienced extreme road rage. I’ve been guilty of rage outbursts in traffic before so this dream wasn’t entirely surprising. In this dream I beat a man to death with my bare hands, then proceeded to spend the rest of my dream justifying to the police why what I did was not a crime.
What God Showed Me: First, though my recovery program is teaching me to surrender my anger to God, my inner rage is just as real as the day I entered recovery, and just as dangerous. There is a temptation which besets you in a recovery program wherein you begin to believe that perhaps you are ‘recovered’, ‘healed’, or ‘fixed’. You say to yourself, “I haven’t acted out in over 18 months! I must be getting better…maybe God has taken it away, finally.” Bad news, compadre: That’s not how God works. Second, God showed me my automatic response to sin: Justification rather than confession. Even after 18 months of confessing my most private sins to a group of addicts-turned-friends I still have to resist the urge to ‘cover up’ the wrong I do by justifying it.
The Second Dream: Wednesday, August 29th
The Subject: Lust
As a recovering pornography addict, my dreams of lust are more common than seems fair. It’s as if my subconscious has retained images and fantasies from my years of acting out, and every once in a while it throws out a wild escapade in a withdrawal-induced spasm. But the dream I had Wednesday night was different. No sexual activity was involved, but my lust was present in a very real and specific way.
What God Showed Me: As with my anger, my lust is just as powerful and capable of destruction as the day I entered recovery. I believe God was also trying to show me that Sin is not black-and-white; it is grey-scale. Do not misunderstand me: Every shade of grey falls short of being purely white. But as I’ve said before: “If having an affair was like eating a dirty ashtray, no one would have an affair.” In this dream God showed me that what starts as a ‘harmless’ look eventually ends in sin, abasement, destruction, and death. He also showed me how to start thinking about Sin like a grown-up rather than a child. We like to teach our children that Sin is black-and-white; frankly I’ve known pastors who preach the same way to adults. But that’s not how Sin works in the real world: It’s a slippery slope, not a cliff. God showed me in my dream that yes, I could have an affair with someone. There is nothing to stop me from doing that. However, before I take that plunge I should evaluate the costs: I would lose my marriage, my family, maybe my job, my sobriety, etc. Yes, lust is thrilling, but is indulging my lust worth the heavy cost I would eventually pay?
The Third Dream: Thursday, August 30th
The Subject: Religious Persecution
My challenges with my former church are well documented (most notably, here), and in this dream I was chased from that church by a group of leaders who mocked me and hurled insults at me. The sense of shame and self-doubt in the dream was powerful; my co-dependent nature screamed for me to ‘make things right’ with those who were deriding me. I awoke feeling very alone in the world.
What God Showed Me: God’s voice was clear during my prayer time following this dream: “Don’t judge them by what they say, but by what they do. What were these ‘religious’ people doing in your dream?” As often happens when the Holy Spirit is involved, a word I’ve never used before popped into my mind: “Scoffing, Lord. They were scoffing at me.” I recalled several verses in Scripture that deal with ‘scoffers’ (most notably, Psalm 73:8: “They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression”) and I realized God was telling me to judge my fellow Christians by their actions, not their words. We can all talk a big game: Anyone can go on a mission trip and brag on Facebook about their good deeds. But in such a case the action of bragging screams louder than the news of the mission trip. God also taught me that leading change is a lonely proposition, and nowhere is that more true than the church. Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles will all attest to the fact that challenging the religious status quo is not fun. But it is necessary.