The last two nights have been rocked by dreams that I’ve been trying to unwrap to find the meaning. Sometimes it’s straightforward and sometimes it takes a bit of talking it through to see the deeper message. I’m not that into dreams, but I know they carry messages about what is going on under the surface of consciousness and sometimes they carry spiritual messages.
My most recent dream was interesting. A woman woke up to find that her daughter had been abducted. (I’ve probably been watching too many Lifetime movies.) The woman went into every church she had been a part of, starting from her young Christian days forward. She was searching for the people who used to pour into her as friends and leaders to tell them about what happened so they would start a massive prayer chain on behalf of her missing daughter. The only thing was, this woman had failed horribly in her Christian walk and many of these people no longer would speak to her. However, this situation went beyond the failures of flesh and was a spiritual emergency that desperately needed God.
She went into a church where an old friend was teaching in a children’s class. The old friend, in everyday life, would have nothing to do with her, but given the gravity if the situation, the woman knew that her old friend would put hurt feelings and the doubt of redemption aside to step up and join the fight against the evil that had taken the mother’s daughter. But, in my dream, the old friend would barely look at the mother. Her spiritual arrogance nearly spat on her as the mother was begging for help. When the mother fought through the personal attack and bitter barbed wire that surrounded her old friend, the old friend said, “Well, when you have sinned to the depths that you have, God can’t protect you. This is just part of being a failure and your daughter probably got herself into this mess by learning from you.”
Shot down, but still in desperate need, the mother went to the next church looking for someone who knew her as a child, knew her parents, and watched her daughter grow up. This next woman was so preoccupied with her own “spiritual duties”, that she could barely give the mother the time it took for her to explain what had happened. The mother had to put the horrible reality into words, “I know my daughter is being hurt right this minute.” She wanted the woman to put herself in the shoes of the mother and take in the gravity of the situation. It made such little impact on the religious woman, who was too busy with her own ‘good’ work, to take a time out and listen to the plea of a begging mother.
The mother stood looking around for anyone she could turn to. In this place where people are supposed be warriors who gather together to fight evil, they were all too busy with their projects to notice the urgent need right in front of them.
I know why I had this dream. It’s not about abducted kids…a mother’s worst fear. It’s a problem I and many others have encountered personally and often. It’s about being in the middle of a crisis that needs a church community who actually believe what they preach. Like calling 911 and being hung up on, people are learning that they cannot turn to the church when they need help. Not if they’re flawed. Not if it doesn’t fit in with the agenda, or the latest trend, or the current focus of the religious community.
If you are a known failure, your trauma will be thrown back in your face as though you deserved evil. People need an army on the home front, but everybody is scratching their way to go to some far away place to serve meals of miracles and salvation to everybody else.
Why is it so hard to serve the people you’re closest to? Why is it such a bother to stop your program and rally around someone who can do nothing but take what you offer to people who don’t even speak your language?
I think the religious community, at large and in general, can get so caught up in their religious plans and projects that they fail their neighbors. They fail the people right next to them.
It’s a problem if you can preach unmerited grace, unchained salvation, and unbound miracles to people you don’t know, but cannot offer it to someone you do know.
You become a disciple in your church living room before you can do anything good on ground elsewhere. People within earshot are screaming for the promise you’re making to people you can’t hear.
A religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.“
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?“
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”-Luke 10:25-37 MSG