Saturday, May 18, 2013

Catching the dream song: discerning God’s voice in unusual ways

While Western spirituality doesn’t give much credence to dreams, voices and visions (unless you’re a Pentecostal), Christians in other cultures take these phenomena seriously. I’ve also learned to accept that dreams are one of the ways God speaks to me. Perhaps my relationships with Friends in Bolivia and Rwanda have made me more open to this experience.
Not all dreams weigh the same, of course. Most mornings I wake up to floating images that I desperately want to hang onto because of their tantalizing hints and colors, but the harder I try, the quicker they dissolve. Most mornings. But from time to time, I awaken to a story or an image that is clear, if not totally coherent. I’ve learned to receive these dreams as a gift, and to write them down as soon as possible as a way of listening to them.
Sometimes, the dream gives me an insight into a difficult relationship or into some aspect of my own inner turmoil. Other times it’s clearly a word from God. It’s one of the ways God shows me the way forward. It gives light on the path.
One morning last week I woke up with a new song. Snatches of the tune and a few lines of the chorus were swimming through my brain: “Newborn, let me slow down and walk with you.” I was singing the song to a baby. The music was hauntingly beautiful. But like catching a strong and stubborn fish, I’ve hooked the song, but I can’t reel it in. Only the images remain. I shared it with Hal and we both agreed that God was speaking to me.
In the dream I was an older woman, about 10-20 years beyond where I am now. I was walking around London by myself, obviously a tourist. (On our recent trip in “real life,” Hal and I had a 15 hour layover in London, and we spent it doing just that.) I had the scraggly mussed look of someone in the middle of a long journey.
I wandered into a lovely old stone church that managed to be smaller on the inside than it was on the outside. A handful of people of various ages were standing around the altar, and as I approached I saw that a young couple was christening their baby.
I joined them, and at a lull in the service, I asked a young man if I could borrow his guitar and sing to the baby. In the dream this seemed entirely appropriate. I sang a lullaby I had written, a blessing addressed directly to the baby. It was gentle, simple, profound and beautiful. People were obviously touched. The baby went to sleep.
Before the song even came to an end, I woke up.
I think God is addressing some of my fears about growing old. This is God’s loving, affirming response to my questions: Will I still be me? Will I still be creative? Will I still have something of value to give other people?
Some insights after reflection on the dream: 1) Old age happens mid-journey. It is not the goal, certainly not the end of the trip.
2) My beauty and ministry will be rooted in my creativity.
3) God’s gifts grow better with time.
4) As I follow the Spirit, God will make my giving appropriate, profound and beautiful.
My prayer partner had an additional interpretation of the dream. She suggests that I am all the people in the dream, that I need to (and can) minister creatively to all the ages inside me, including the baby. It’s interesting that all age groups were clustered around the altar.
So much to ponder. I sense anew God’s love and blessing. And I’m grateful for all the ways God speaks to us.


  1. I have no doubt that you will minister creatively until your last breath.

    I was going to write "your old women shall dream dreams" so I went to check the wording in Joel. I'm confused about Joel 2:28-29. Why does the inclusive language version say "your old men shall dream dreams"? Why not men and women? The Spirit is poured out on male and female slaves (vs. 29).

    I guess that's one more thing to study.

    Feels funny to consider that we're actually getting old--in the best sense of the word, of course.

  2. Have you read Joan Chittister"s "The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully"? It's full of hope and, I believe, truth.