Thursday, January 17, 2008

Confronting ME

I am not a Christian dream interpreter, nor do I play one on the net. Or tv, or anywhere else. I just wanted to put that here first, in case anyone gets the wrong idea. Quite often however, the most intense and bizarre dreams I have (and for those who know me, they know they're pretty bizarre) seem to come at a time when I'm also dealing with a sort of spiritual crossroads. No doubt these things are connected somehow, but I won't even pretend to understand the inner workings of the sleepy mind (or wide awake mind, for that matter), and why we dream the way we do.

The other night I had a dream in which our house was destroyed (sort of) over and over again by deadly tornados. We'd come up from the basement to see if it had passed, and see another one coming and head to the basement again. From the basement we could hear the devastation and destruction happening upstairs. When the sounds stopped we'd come up and the house was fine, everything perfectly in order. We'd see another one coming as we'd look out the windows toward the west and see the sky a dark greenish/gray color with thick thunderheads rolling around above us, with tree branches whipping and snapping in every direction, then we'd head the basement again. Then, we'd hear the same sounds all over again. Loud bangs, breaking glass, crashes and thumps along with the moaning sound of the wind tearing through the house. We heard it, but there was no outward evidence of it. We saw it coming straight for the house, but all visual signs said it missed us. It was a very strange, and very intense dream from which I woke up feeling like I just run a marathon.

I thought about this dream the next day, and as much as it doesn't make any sense, wondered if there was any sense to be made of it? Considering that lately I have been thinking a lot about growth and the details in the process of ongoing sanctification, I suppose its entirely possible that I somehow - in my sleepy state of mind - mixed up the verse of Scripture that tells us that like the wind that you can hear, the Holy Spirit goes where He wants to (John 3:8) and that the work He began in you, He will be faithful to keep doing (Phil. 1:6). Of course this is all just speculation but it was the only thing that really made any sense on the spiritual front. Its also entirely possible that I just have a dreaded fear of having our house wasted by a tornado, and that the weather man is full of baloney half the time when he puts us under a tornado watch.

While I do have some very wild dreams, there is a pattern of consistancy (of sorts) in that the ones I have where there are things such as gigantic flesh-hungry wolves breaking into the house, or out of control fires, earthquakes and things like that - come at a time when I'm dealing with a deep spiritual matters. How it all connects I really don't know, I just find the pattern interesting.

Oddly enough, the next day after having this dream, while reading my new book (that is sure to cut me down like a tornado), I read this:
"About this time, you may be tempted to throw this book across the room. You didn't pick it up to be condemned or have your subtle sins exposed." (pg. 26, Chapter 3)

I didn't really feel tempted to fling the book, but there was a time I'm sure I would have. Then I read this just a few pages later:
"That, then, is the bad news about your sin, and, as you can see, it is really, really bad. How do you respond? Will you deflect it onto other people whom you see to be sinners? Do you find yourself wishing that a certain other person would read this chapter?" (pg.30, Chapter 3)

And at this point the book went flying across the room. No, I didn't really throw the book but I did read that section several times. It shouldn't surprise me that Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins would know ahead of time that indeed while reading chapter 3, I might have had a hard time staying focused on myself. This is an author that has been recommended to me for years by others who've been richly blessed by his work. Clearly, he knows how to get through to his readers.

As I read through chapter 3 the same thing began to happen with this book that happened when I read Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney. All through the book he used very relatable examples of everyday folks displaying righteous and godly behavior and conduct, and contrasted it with the ungodly conduct of arrogance and pride. As I read many of those examples I thought of other people that I've known or know, that have either done or said the very thing Mahaney wrote about, or that generally tend to display the kind of ungodly character he was writing about. It bothered me a great deal that I kept thinking of other people instead of how this applies to me, so I tried hard to stay focused on me, and not "them". The most ironic thing of all, was the reaction of a friend (at that time) when they learned I was reading a book by this author. Instantly the criticism began due to his charismatic position, and that example was a really hard one to ignore. As a staunch cessationist 5 pointer, apparently I shouldn't have been reading such folks. Well I did and I was blessed and challenged, in many ways.

My pastor recently made a comment from the pulpit about how we're so good at playing the blame-game. "No Lord, it's not me you should be concerned with, but this woman you gave me, she's got some serious problems". (Adam to God). Then Eve: "oh but it was that horrible serpent!" From Adam we've all inherited this sinful reaction to deflecting onto someone else, the very thing we need to be dealing with in ourselves. If you're a parent, you see it in full, living color in your little ones when they get busted for doing something naughty and the first thing out of their mouths is an attempt to blame someone else. Grown ups do it too, we just have a different way of doing it.

No question about it, this kind of self-examination is really hard. It's "toss the book across the room" hard, for just about all of us. Imagine a scrumptious cake sitting on your table. It's perfectly frosted and beautifully decorated, and smells just heavenly. Now imagine cutting into that cake and from the center begins to run all over the table the most foul smelling raw sewage you can imagine. That's a pretty disgusting image, right? Well, as rancid as it sounds its not really any different from us. We can look good on the outside (in word and deed) but in each of us deep down there dwells some pretty nasty stuff. We'd much rather console ourselves with our own good looking outsides and notice the nasty stuff coming from other people, than deal with the nasty stuff right in our own thoughts & attitudes.

This book came at just the right time. While I can honestly admit I don't really want to deal with the nasty stuff in me, I can also admit that I know I need to, and for that reason I want to. If that sounds familiar its because Paul said the same thing in Romans 7:14-25. I do, but I don't, but I do, but I can't, but I want to, and I need to, but I hate that I don't. This is the battle every Christian has with the flesh, and it's a hard one.