When I tell people about my dreams, a common follow-up question I get is typically, “Do you do drugs?”
While I am not a drug user in any way, I don’t often tell people about my dreams because they are fairly vivid and wacky, and well, I never seem to be able to explain them out loud the way they looked and felt, so I just end up sounding like a complete and total weirdo.
The dreams I treasure the most are still in my head. I’ve dreamed that I’ve been able to fly and leap over buildings, and have felt the wind on my face. I’ve stood on the edge of a colorful and mysterious canyon in the middle of the wilderness watching deep blue thunderclouds billow toward me. I’ve seen rainbow colored animals that don’t exist. And no, I really do not do drugs.
When I dream about commonplace things, like going to work, or some meeting, I know that something is wrong. I’m usually over-tired, stressed out, or too close to the surface of my waking life.
Last week I had a truly beautiful dream that I can’t get out of my head. I’ll attempt to describe it here in a way that makes sense. However, describing dreams is difficult, so I am well aware that this could be a failed experiment.
I was looking down at the earth from space, and night was falling. But as I looked I realized that the universe was two-dimensional. It was as if every star in the universe had been compressed onto a single plane, a single transparent sheet of rounded glass that encircled the earth. The surface of the transparent universe was invisible, but solid, with the stars embedded in it, sparkling like small diamonds. You could see the curving round earth below, through the glassy sphere.
A man walked out onto this invisible solid sky, as if walking on water. I didn’t get a good look at him in order to describe him, but he didn’t look unusual. In his hand he had an invisible blanket made of the same material as the sky. You knew it was there because you could see the twinkling embedded diamond stars in it, rippling in the invisible fabric. He stopped, took the blanket, and spread it into the air before him, shaking out the ripples and letting it fall onto the surface of the sky. It blended immediately into the sky so that it was impossible to tell where the blanket ended and the sky began.
He stepped onto the area where the blanket should have been, and laid down and curled up to sleep.
The sun began rising, and suddenly I was afraid that the solid sky and stars was going to melt away with the sun and that the man would fall and plummet to his death. The transparent sky did start to disappear as the sun rose, and he did begin to fall through. But suddenly a great whooshing sound came up from below. It was a mass of steam and cloud, catching his fall and buoying him up slowly as he fell toward earth, as if sustained on a giant billowing pillow of cloud that was actively steaming up from below in order to break his fall.
And suddenly I was no longer watching. I was there with him, and we were standing at the edge of a massive field. The grasses were was as tall as corn, as tall as we were, in colors of gold and green, but it rippled in soft waves like wheat. The edge of the field was perfectly straight. The man began running along the edge of the field, well not really running, but gliding, at what felt like 200 miles an hour. I was with him, and felt the wind on my face as we moved faster than I thought possible. His right hand was stretched out, touching the edges of the grasses, which rippled as we whooshed past. He told me (somehow) to reach out my hand as well, and the grass was like soft hair, or rippling water.
That’s all I remember.
I’m normally not a big fan of dream interpretation (I think that weird dreams are usually just your brain’s way of organizing itself and spitting out the crazy bits). However, I have been listening to Handel’s Messiah quite a bit lately, which prompted me last week to check out some of the scriptures in the book of Isaiah.
And I realized this morning that Isaiah 40 in particular in some ways reminds me of my dream – here are some of my favorite parts:
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens; who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. (v26)
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. (v22)
All men are like grass, and their glory is like the flowers of the field. (v6)
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. (v8)
He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (v11)
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (v31)
It made me think about this Christmas season, and of Emmanuel, which means “God with us” in Hebrew. Could the kind of God who masters and creates the stars in the universe be the kind of God who is here with me, running through a field? Could a God who could legitimately decide to see me as one of many grasshoppers or blades of grass… could he also be the kind of God who gathers me close to his heart, as a shepherd gathers his lambs? Yes, he is both. It is a great mystery.
And I think that is the point of the Christmas story, whether you believe it or not. I think we can become distracted by the components of the story itself, like the manger, the angels, the wise men, and Mary. But the story of Emmanuel is more personal and more intimate than that… God is not just “out there” in the universe anymore – he is here with us! And he is not only here with us through the good parts – he is here with us through the horrible parts as well. Emmanuel cannot be reversed, shaken, moved, or removed. He rejoices with us, he weeps with us, and he takes our hand and runs with us through the field, with a strength that does not fail.