Monday, August 27, 2012

You Said WHAT?!?

In the small hours of the morning I was jolted out of what must have been a really weird dream. My first college roommate Nancy was standing at the sink in our dorm room washing her face. Perhaps she had dropped something in the sink, startling me awake. I sat bolt upright in bed. 

“You said WHAT?!?” I asked in a voice that betrayed shock and confusion, leaving poor Nancy mystified.
“Julie … what’s wrong?”
“You said WHAT?!?”
“Julie …”
“You said WHAT?!?”
“Julie!  Wake up! What’s wrong?”
Finally, my conscious caught up with my subconscious. “Oh … Never mind.”  I lay back down, hoping to go back to sleep.  No such luck. By that time, I was thoroughly awake. I began to chuckle.
Nancy looked at me curiously. “What?”
“You’ll never believe what I thought you said.” I had to laugh again. I thought you said, “It’s time to feed the gorillas!” We both got a chuckle out of that.
I have absolutely no idea now what could have possibly prompted a dream about feeding gorillas. After all, it happened 32 years ago. I did not get any profound spiritual lesson out of that incident at the time. However, looking back, I can see a parallel between my reaction there in my dorm room, and my reaction now when something unexpected happens in life.
When Life Jolts us Awake
As we go through life, we are living out our own story … let’s call it our own “dream story”. That “dream story“ may be happy, peaceful, and joyful, although also having its share of sorrow, grief and loss. It may be filled with people who have walked with us through life struggles, and loved us unconditionally. The story may be characterized by a deep faith and confidence that our Heavenly Father never leaves us alone, no matter what we face.
On the other hand, that “dream story” may be more of a nightmare, characterized by sorrow, pain, and abuse with no one to offer comfort or help. It may be filled with people who have promised to always be there for us, yet betrayed us in the end. The story may have led us to conclude that we are on our own when hard times come because no one can be counted on to help, not even God.
Then, something happens. Life jolts us awake. We are hit in the face, so to speak, with some crisis. Illness. Tragedy. Rejection. Unemployment.  Natural disaster. Loss of an important relationship.
No matter what type of “dream” we were living out at the time, none of these things are welcome. All “dreamers” have that in common.
The difference is seen in how each life story, each “dream”, influences the way we respond to the crisis.
The nature of the “dream” influences whether:
  • We draw closer to the people near us, or shut them out.
  • We rise to the challenge, or curl up in defeat.
  • We look to God for strength, or assume we have to get through the crisis alone.
  • We draw closer to God, or move farther away from Him, certain He doesn’t care.
  • We rest in assurance that God has a good plan for us, or assume He is out to get us.
The first in each pair of responses reflects a quietness and confidence that stands the trial by fire.  When our “dream story” has shown us that other people can be trusted to be there for us in difficult times, we are likely to respond positively to God as well when faced with a crisis. When we are jolted awake by tragedy or trial, our natural response is to run to our Heavenly Father Who is always there to walk with us through the storm.
However, when life has not been so kind to us, we may have a very different reaction. The second in each pair of responses above demonstrates this. Our “dream story” might tell us that people can’t be trusted to help us. They will betray us.  They don’t care about us. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we will certainly fail. With such a background, when jolted awake by tragedy or trial, our knee-jerk response is to assume that God is punishing us for something. We might assume that God Himself is out to get us.
If you often react to tragedy by assuming the worst about others, and especially about God, I invite you to consider something. Our life experiences, our “dream stories” are influenced, even written in part, by imperfect people. The pain caused by those imperfect people writes lies into our “dream stories”. Lies about ourselves … about others … about God.
When you are jolted awake, you might think you hear God saying,
  • “You had this coming to you.  You asked for it.”
  • “I’m far too busy to be bothered with your petty little problems.”
  •  “You are on your own with this one. Don’t expect Me to bail you out.”
  • ”You are despicable. Clean up your act, and then maybe, just maybe I might give you the time of day”
If statements like these sound familiar, I invite you to sit bolt upright and ask, “You said WHAT?!?”
Hear God say to you, “My child…what’s wrong?”
“You said WHAT?!?”
 “My child… wake up.”
And as you do, as you wake up from your “dream story”, allow His light to expose and scatter the lies that have been planted through your life experiences. Allow His love to fill you with truth instead.
The truth is, no matter what lies about God a harsh and painful “dream story” have planted within you, He is not like that.  This is what God really says.
  • “You may have to deal with consequences of your past actions, but nothing you have done could ever make me stop loving you.”
  • “I am never to busy to hear even the smallest cry for help.”
  •  “I will walk with you through this trial. In My strength, I will bring you through.”
  • ”There is nothing you can do to make yourself good enough to come to me. I’ve already done it all for you. My arms are open wide. Just come to me.”
Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

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