Prophetic dreams often raise important questions about what we accept as part of our spiritual journey. Such dreams and the consequential questions are normal and healthy, and can stimulate our spiritual growth. However, what our Father is trying to teach us through prophetic dreams is not always obvious and all questions should go back to Him for His answers.
In what he has written, David highlights this process of identifying relevant questions and turning them into prayer.
I had a strange dream this morning - just before waking up late. It had something to do with my being in a railway tunnel with some other people. I must have been one of the few who had been there before because I was telling them to take note of the space beside the track on one side of the railway lines because they would have to go (hide) there if the train came in unexpectedly. I seem to recall that we were not expecting the train; but it came anyway. The train was carrying potatoes. There could have been many other things on as well, but it was the potatoes that caught my attention. There was something wrong with them, although it was the sort of ‘problem’ which the great majority of people would not see – especially if they were really hungry. I ‘knew’ that the majority would be like that, and they would be so happy to have any food, they would eat it in spite of any risk.
Somehow all this was connected to the idea of covert operations. We were in the tunnel – i.e. unseen – and there was a sense that our mission had something to do with stopping the potato delivery in order to protect those who would otherwise eat them. We would not be popular among the hungry – that is why we were ‘covert’. They were (in a sense) happy to accept whatever those who controlled the food supply sent them. And it wasn’t clear just what we would offer in the place of the contaminated food. Were the locals supposed to grow their own? If so it would take a long time before they were ready to be harvested, and how were the hungry supposed to survive until then?
As I was trying to make some sort of sense about this, I began to see the story as a parable for things that were happening in the spirit rather than the obvious physical parallel. The idea seemed to be hungry people were so desperate for spiritual food that they would eat what anyone was “good enough” to send them. They would go along to the provision point and pick up what was delivered to ‘all’ by the train load. They were used to doing things that way because no one had a garden any more. There was no other source, and certainly they were convinced that they couldn’t ‘grow their own’ nearly as successfully as getting it from the ‘shop’ which was owned and operated by people with their own motives. Once the gardens had all gone, the providers controlled the marketplace, the quality and the price – everyone else was completely dependent on them.
The challenge was just how a covert force should carry out the mission of interrupting the supply of contaminated food. Should we attack the provider? Should we destroy the ‘food’? Should we just try and point out how badly the spiritual potatoes had been changed. There was a sense that the contamination was like the changes that are made to seeds to prevent them from producing more than one crop. Such seed has been made ‘sterile’ and has little long term value.
Shortly after chewing on all that I got out of bed, and while in the bathroom I heard a radio interview between Chris Laidlaw and a man who was involved in some reasonably new form of scientific research into how the body worked. The aim of this was to be able to identify ways to better understand the body, what happens when people get ill, and thus how to produce new and more effective drugs to cure those illnesses. That sounded all very positive – just the sort of thing we would all want our scientists to be thinking about.
But there was an obvious connection with the dream, and my subsequent ruminating. Here was another example of man trying to solve the problems of the world. But our history is replete with examples of man trying to solve the problems using his knowledge to find ‘cures’ for all manner of things that have gone wrong – be they medical, social, political, or whatever. We spend huge amounts of money to develop solutions, with little thought of the consequences. How many of our solutions aren’t ideal – such as when the cure is worse than the disease?
We place our faith in these solutions – because there are no other (obvious) ones to place out faith in. They are a bit like contaminated potatoes. We latch onto them because it’s all we have and all we know. We have long since given up on producing (or finding) the solutions in our own gardens. Gardens? You mean going back to the garden to find the answers to the things that trouble us? Now there’s a novel thought.
But does any of this actually provide a sense of direction for me? It’s ‘easy’ to see the problem. It’s a bit more difficult to grasp than the idea of being a covert cop; some sort of guerrilla for God or spiritual Jedi doing great things with a life sabre. The challenge is to see how this ‘new’ (as also in new creation) creation is to cause the sort of change that is needed. What targets are they to ‘attack’ and with what end in mind?
The ‘problem’ can be seen in several ways.
a. The people are hungry. There could be all manner of reasons for that. Is that the place we should target?
b. The food is contaminated. Should we attack the production and/or delivery of the food? Should we attack the manufacturer?
c. There are no local gardens. Should we be targeting the development of those? But how do people eat in the mean time?
Clearly the methods of operation have to be consistent with our Father’s way of doing things. We can’t operate outside His tactics, which may well limit our options for responding.
And it was at about this point that I ran out of answers. This seems to be the normal way things work – I gain some insight into the nature of the problem, but I can’t see the answer in terms of the way to move forwards. I have to ask though; it there any connection between this picture and the idea of barn building within the city.
At face value there seem to be. Building barns has the connotation of storing food – spiritual food. But we have traditionally seen the barn building as a place to store this thing we call ‘the harvest’. There could be a couple of deductions out of that – the ‘harvest’ could well be ‘contaminated’ on the way through. Further, those who would build and operate these barns could also be contaminated to some degree. Both those factors point towards the subsequent production of contaminated (dare I suggest ‘sterile’) fruit. If those who ‘run’ the barns have been ‘infected’ with the suspect spiritual potatoes that they have eaten in the past, they won’t be able to do anything else.
What is it that ‘contaminates’ the spiritual food? Perhaps the answer was in the radio interview. Perhaps it has something to with the thoughts and answers of men. And the danger is a continuous one. The more we are dependent on men (or man) to find and learn in one of these barns, the greater the likelihood must be of our getting contaminated. The only way we can get the spiritual food we need is straight from the source Himself. Yet what I see and hear is (some) men feeling that they are essential to the process. They give us “teaching” (O yes, they – both the men and their converts cry – “we much have good teaching”.)
I admit to having some struggles with that. I know I often resist and question the teachings that men claim to have come from God. But am I any different? Is not my mind just as open to contamination as anyone else’s? And, at the end of the day is it better to be hungry from no food than feeble or poisoned by the wrong food? How else do we learn how to operate our own garden? Do we not need someone to show us? And can we not (are we not obliged to) share what we have received?
That is not an easy one to answer; the answer appears to be both yes and no. In some things what we get is suitable for a wider audience, in other cases perhaps it is suitable for us alone. We seem to assume, as men so often do, that if it works for me it must be right for everyone else. I confess to knowing I am not one who willingly shares I have. I know I am not like others, what they have doesn’t work for me, and vice versa. Many others not only want to share, but some to impose.
It is that act of imposition that seems to be where the contamination is most obvious. I ‘know’ this, therefore you need to believe it too. This places the focus back on intellectual elements such as mental acceptance, and behavioural responses based on the demands of others. We get away from the idea of following Him and what He is telling us, and slip into a desire (demand?) to follow that others want to do – based (presumably) what someone else says, or has seen or heard.
The trouble with that line of thinking is that we are still hungry and don’t yet have much in the way of produce from our garden – if indeed we have a garden at all. We need someone to show us how to cultivate it – and that means having others involved – the same others who could well be a potential source of contamination.
The reality is that God needs people (or should I say He chooses to involve people) in his plans. Those people are inevitably struggling with whom and where they are, and can be expected to be ‘limited’ to some degree by the baggage they carry. It invites an interesting question: did Jesus have any baggage? It’s a bit like the one my friend mentioned: Was Jesus a Christian in any way that we know? The answers seem obvious, but maybe they’re not that simple. And if Jesus didn’t; how about those who took over the leadership of the fledgling church from Him? The answer now is a little clearer – of course they did! And (it seems) so do we.
The challenge then seems to revolve around achieving the aim (presumably seeing the Kingdom come here on Earth) while still being less than perfect vessels. Paul reminds us we are clay vessels – cracked and deformed – but we are also Children of the Living God with (all of) the power of Christ within us. The remark about the jars of clay is to the Corinthians who, as a friend pointed out today, were probably towards the child end of the development chart. Does that mean we never go past that point? It might be interesting to do some thinking about how 2 Corinthians 4 fits into the idea of us becoming ‘empowered sons and fathers’.
The main area where we (my friend and I) seemed to see things differently is in the part of the picture that points to our involvement. He has no problem with the whole thing about pastures – healing and restoring. But in this morning’s picture, I wasn’t there – I was back in a tunnel trying to deal with an incoming shipment of spiritual junk food. Does that mean I have no place in someone else's (or God’s) vision?
Somehow I don’t think I should assume that. There is this interesting place where God’s plan for Christchurch can embrace both. Certainly neither of us may need to (choose to) follow the (now) standard formula we see re-enacted every week when the tribe gathers. But surely that is how it should be.