Thursday, April 23, 2009

Listen to Your Life

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said (Genesis 37:8).

During my chaplaincy internship at Baylor hospital in Dallas I would often carpool with a group of seminary students, sharing the burden and cost of the 30 mile commute from Fort Worth. From time to time Kay would ride with us and when she did we could almost always count on hearing about one of her dreams. It seemed that Kay dreamed something interesting every time she fell asleep, and she was always eager to tell us about it.

What I remember most about Kay’s dreams was the vivid detail with which she described them. Like most dreams they were bizarre, weird things happening and random people showing up. Most of the time, Kay laughed at her own dreams. She had all of us laughing too, which made the creeping ride from Fort Worth to Dallas breeze by. Never once did she try to actually come up with what the dreams meant – but she could tell a tale and paint a picture.

I rarely remember my dreams. When I do, it seems my mind has only retained snippets, and even these are shadowy and vague. Some people see their dreams in high definition. Mine look like an old Polaroid, left too long in the sunlight, faded and difficult to make out.

As for what they mean, I cannot begin to guess. Sometimes, I’m not sure I even want to know.

Joseph’s dreams, like his colorful robe, were a source of irritation to his brothers. Was Joseph really that naïve? Did he think the other eleven would listen eagerly as he narrated a scene in which they bowed to him? Would they all share a good laugh as Joseph described their submissiveness?

Joseph’s dreams were annoying, but we know something that his brothers could not have known. Joseph’s dreams were true. The dreams were a way for God to speak to Joseph. This kind of thing happens all over the Bible. Dreams amplify the divine whisper.

For most of us, we do not take our dreams seriously. We accept them as the natural function of a sleeping brain, something the body does to restore the mind and ready it for conscious engagement with the real world.

Many of us, schooled in Western educational systems, discover truth about God from books. We read the Bible. We read and think about theology. We discuss and debate doctrinal propositions, testing them with the mind and thus arriving at truth. Having the truth in hand, presumably, allows us to discover something about God.

I like that. In fact, I prefer it. But maybe we need to learn how to read our lives as well. That might include dreams we have as we sleep, or visions we have as we let our minds wander – but it will include more than that.

Maybe today God is speaking to you in ways that are not printed on the pages of a book (or an email devotional). What is it about this day that has you excited? What are you dreading? What interactions bring you life and what kinds of interactions drain the life out of you? What are you doing when you feel like you’re really making a contribution to this world?

You may not be much of one for interpreting dreams, but you can learn to listen to your life. What is your life telling you today?

Gracious God, help me to go through this day listening for your voice by paying attention to my life: relationships, thoughts, hopes, disappointments. Use every detail of my life to shape your will in me, I pray. Amen.

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