If the school of thought that our dreams speak something about us is credible, then I may conclude that my deeper self has a lot to say. For instance, based on my dreams last night I gather that I was anxious about my gray hair beginning to show, and that I am deeply grateful for my new writing sisters in the Redbud Writer’s Guild and am clamoring to meet them in person. I’ll spare y’all the psychedelic and seemingly unlinked details.
I have vivid dreams quite regularly. Sometimes I’m blessed to remember them the next morning, while other times I simply have a psychosomatic recollection that such a dream occurred during my slumber and no lingering images. Being the ENFJ personality type that I am, I look for meaning. I inquire of my soul and of God who created it and lives there.
What are you saying? What message do you have for me?
God speaks to me strongly through my dreams and intuitions. Often I feel overwhelmed by God’s presence, and the only thing I can do is sit quietly. Like Elijah I must seek a peaceful (ideally isolated) environment and silent myself to discern the still, small voice of the Lord.
What are you saying? What message do you have for me?
There are none too few in my Reformed Christian tradition that would most likely scoff, or at least cast doubt upon this aspect of my spirituality. By definition Reformed folk are reticent to seek God’s voice outside of Scripture. This practice is in our theological DNA. Due to our depravity, humans are way too apt to interpret divine messages selfishly. It is better not to rely too much on human agency, but to submit to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Reformed pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) asserts that we can best discern the voice of God through the Spirit in assembly, not as individuals. As such, when someone comes forth and says that s/he has just received a word from the Lord for the community, Reformed folk will likely hesitate and take the word to the Board of Elders to “handle”. It’s not that we don’t believe that God still speaks; it’s that we are highly suspicious of a single interpretation. (See paragraph above.) The thought is that if God is indeed speaking, then the message will not only stand but likely clarify when a group of people discerns together in God’s time. Also, the potential for religious fascism and abuse of power under a single ruler is removed.
And yet, despite my Reformed theological education, I still dream and as part of my spiritual practice ask God to clarify what she is saying to me through each reverie.
Am I whacked? Do I need to fear being burned at the stake?
Answer: a big no to both questions
I am biblical. And if God has given you vivid dreams for whose meaning you beseech the Holy Spirit, then you are biblical, too. The biggest examples of God giving and speaking through dreams in Scripture are the two Josephs — the son of Jacob and Rachel and the earthly father of Jesus. Recall that Joseph’s (son of Rachel and Jacob) God-given dreams both got him in trouble with and enabled him to save his brothers, as well as his father when there was a famine. God went further and gave Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams, which saved his life and served as a catalyst to God’s great work of saving many during the famine. Additionally, the birth and early life of our Messiah may have been strikingly different had not God spoken to Joseph in dreams both before and after Jesus was born. There are other biblical examples of God speaking to humanity through dreams, as well (Daniel, the prophets).
So this begs my question: if discerning the work and will of God through dreams was good enough for the Josephs (and other biblical peeps), why not us? Why are some of us automatically suspicious, or downright freaked out by those who do dream vividly and seek the dreams’ meaning as holy guidance for their faith lives? It’s not like we don’t have legitimated support that this has happened. Further, it’s not like we believe that God stopped communicating with humanity once the biblical canon was finalized and closed in the sixteenth century. Anyone remember Pentecost, understood as both the “birthday of the church” and the coming of the Holy Spirit? As the Newsboys (Christian Contemporary recording artists) say in their current hit single, “God is not dead, he [sic] is surely alive”. If this is so (and it is), then God is absolutely still speaking to God’s people by the power of the Spirit by whatever means God desires.
Point of clarification: Yes, we still need to wait upon the Lord for confirmation and test the Spirit to make sure our interpretation is in accordance with God’s will. I wholeheartedly agree that it is not wise for anyone to react with a spiritual knee jerk, if you will; and also that humans are prone to misinterpretation, and of course self-centered interpretation.
My prayer is that Reformed Christians (and all Christians, for that matter) take God speaking to us through dreams seriously, and support (rather than judge or ridicule) those who dream God-given dreams. Help us discern the meaning of our dreams through prayer and other spiritual disciplines, whether in groups of two or three or at a Classis (assembly of elders and pastors of local churches) meeting. And pray that our hearts remain humble and in service of the words and Word of the Lord.