June 19, 2015

Heart to Heart

It is Friday! I am starting to lose track of my days, and I guess that means that I am fully immersed in summer (whoohoo!) I woke up today thinking that it was Thursday. I also thought it was the 20th of June. News Flash! It is Friday, June 19, 2015. Yeah, someone needs a good wake up call.

The weather is expected to hit another record high of 115. Yesterday the high reached 115. The last time we hit 115 on June 18th was in 1896. So the heat wave continues on...

Delight in the Lord

I had a good night, well I mean, I slept well, and didn't have any unpleasant dreams last night. I did have one very odd dream about a flood, but it wasn't anything scary or disconcerting. I was standing near this storm drain when I saw water and debris rush toward me. The debris hit the cement barrier and the water started to flow around me. It wasn't very deep, but the current was fairly strong. I moved out of the way, climbing up to the top of the embankment. From there I watched as the water came down, like a dam bursting, and flood the surrounding area. I was with a large group of people who, like me, all scampered to higher ground. I remember thinking "how will I get home?" I started to walk along the hillside, and I remember seeing the grass -- it was brown, golden brown like the hills near my home in Northern CA. As I walked on, I eventually came to this building where I was able to go inside and get away from the rising water. The building was closed, so I entered it from the roof (don't ask me how that happened, it was a dream after all). I was with two other people, a man and a woman. The woman's name was Ashley (I called her) and she was very young. The man was older, perhaps my age or a little older than me (50s-60s). He was thin and wiry, but very strong. I didn't call him by name. We sat on the balcony of this building for a while. I remember thinking that it was hot outside and that we needed to get into one of the rooms or offices below us. As I looked over the side, I saw a pack of wolves starting to congregate near me. I remember seeing a desert-like landscape, and these animals were looking for food.  Somehow, they came near to me and Ashley, and I shouted for her to run. We escaped the wolves, barely, by running back inside a covered place on the roof. Then the man, I will call him Bill, found a way into the building and we all escaped and went inside the cool air conditioned space. That was it, that was the sum total of my dream.

What Does It Mean?

In dream analysis, which I find fascinating, both the wolf and flooding waters are representative of uncontrollable forces of nature. The wolf can represent negative or positive feelings because wolves can be seen as wise and protective or they can be seen as cunning and evil. Flood waters, like all other natural disasters, almost always symbolize the uncontrollable force of nature.

Siger (2012) writes, "Floods, and other natural disasters (such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes) represent UNCONTROLLABLE forces that are POWERFUL, and very often leave their victims utterly helpless. It’s these feelings that the dream, itself, represents" (para. 1). I think this analysis is spot on. In my dream, the wolves were not symbols of protection or wisdom, rather they were looking to attack me and the second woman, Ashley. This says to me that the wolf in the dream was representing something evil that was cunning, sneaky, and deceitful.  The flood waters, like my other dreams of tornadoes or lava flowing down, simply remind me that my life is in overwhelm mode right now. I have a lot on my plate, and I am feeling the rush of waters as I try to keep my ship afloat. Siger says, "If you dream about a flood, more likely than not you have recently felt overwhelmed in your life by something (or someone) that seemed like an uncontrollable force – one which left you feeling somewhat helpless, at their mercy, and victimized" (para 2.).

Fascinatingly enough, Siger adds an alternative interpretation to flood dreams when she says that the intensity of the emotion felt during the dream is important to consider. For example, when I often dream of tornadoes, I feel panic inside, so much so that I will feel that "fight or flight" response. However, in this dream, I felt absolutely calm the entire time. Even when the wolves appeared to be attacking, I didn't feel afraid. Siger says, "If you have a positive emotion during your flood dream, your dream is symbolic of relief. This could mean that something WAS overwhelming, but you found a way to handle the situation and come out on top. Your dream could be a celebration of this triumph" (para 4). She continues with, "If you feel relief during the dream, it could mean that you have bottled-up (or “dammed up”) emotions that you want to release. Your subconscious mind is letting you know what a relief it will be when you release these emotions and sort of let the flood gates open" (para 5)!

I am not sure I can characterize my feelings as relief, but I certainly wasn't afraid as the water rush around me. I didn't panic, and I didn't feel like I needed to run. I simply avoided the flood water, and I climbed to higher ground.

I find dream interpretation and analysis interesting because of the way the subconscious mind works while we sleep. I know some people look to dreams for prophecy or for advice on how to live. I find the mind most interesting, and from a communication standpoint, I think the imagery that the mind calls up to communicate feelings to us is worth exploring (scientifically, I mean). I guess it is my fascination with psychology -- social and behavioral psychology -- that interests me most.

Putting It Into Perspective

As I consider this dream and what it means to me, I realize that lately I have been feeling overwhelmed by my life, in general. I have so much work to do, and my personal life is stressed and strained due to my job, my parents failing health, and other concerns. All of this has been weighing heavily on my heart, and there are days when I feel that the burden is too much to handle, to heavy to carry, to hard to comprehend.

Last night, before I went to bed, I had a great conversation with my friend. It was a good "heart to heart" conversation where we discussed some difficult topics.  I spent a good deal of the time listening rather than speaking, but only because I was intent on understanding what he was saying. It is important to listen carefully when someone is sharing their heart. Too often we listen casually, with one ear. When mishaps occur, we wonder why we misinterpret what others are saying. Listening is a skill, and it must be developed. It requires patience, understanding, and the willingness to engage in conversation with another person. I see people who talk all the time, they just talk to hear themselves talk. They don't care about connecting with anyone or really getting to know another person. They just want to be the one doing all the talking. Listening, on the other hand, is a submissive quality, it says "I care about you, and your thoughts and feelings matter to me." It conveys respect, deep devotion, and a willingness to be part of another persons life, even if only for a short while. 

After I went to bed, I was praying to the Lord about my life, about my relationship, and about my future (or His future plans). I remember thinking to myself how tired I was, tired of the stress and the strain, tired of all the waiting for things to happen. More so, I was tired of vacillating between career choices, always thinking "If" I am doing the right thing (teaching versus another kind of work). I remember thinking to the Lord:
  1. The path that I am on is good.
  2. The place where I am right now is good.
  3. The purpose I am pursuing is good.
  4. The plan the Lord has for my life is good.
I remember thinking if God is Sovereign, and I am seeking Him for direction and guidance, always wanting to be in His will for my life, then how could I see the place where I am at (teaching adjunct) as a bad thing. I mean, does God give bad things to His children who are diligently seeking Him, desiring Him, and taking delight in Him (Matt. 7:11). In truth, I believe that I am where I am because God chose this path for me. So while I may wonder about Path B (the other road); I am on Path A because He has placed me here to do His work. I may not see the fruit or the glory in it, but the Lord knows why He chose this way for me.

Furthermore, as I think about my parent's health especially my Mom's recent issue, I am reminded that my parents are in their 80's. They are coming to the end of their lives, naturally, and they will die some day. No matter how much I don't want to see that happen, the fact remains, they will pass at some point in time. And that time is drawing near because of their age and their infirmities.

I think sometimes these details wear us down. In reality, they shouldn't because these are things outside our control. For example, I cannot do anything about my mother's failing health. I can pray for her, and I can help her as I am able, but I cannot change the outcome of her life. I cannot add any days to the length of her God-given days. The same is true for my job. I am content to do the work that I have, but there is a part of me that wonders what my life would be like had I followed a different way. Would I have more money, would I be less stressed, would I enjoy the work? It is the "grass is greener" syndrome, and I have allowed these thoughts about "what if" to dominate my view. I have become soured because of it, and I wrestle with my future simply because I wonder if the path I am on is the "best path." The answer of course is that the Lord has me right where He wants me, and the longer I question my path, the more I suggest that I know better, I am better able to choose, and I am a better provider than He is. May it never be, may it never be!

I think my dream last night was a washing away of stress and strain, built up tension that has caused me to lose sleep and feel awful because I refused to accept the Lord's will for my life. I refused to give Him credit for knowing best in my life, and for providing adequately for me. I chose instead to be disagreeable, to behave as though I knew better, and in doing so, I lost my delight in the Lord.

Psalm 37:4-5 is my life verse. I took it back in 2007 when I re-encountered the Mighty God, Jehovah-Jireh. I knew then that if I made the Lord my delight, He would give me the desires of my heart. Of course, I wanted the desires of His heart -- to know Him more intimately, to love Him more deeply, and to rely upon Him more completely. I had no other desires -- material, physical, or temporal -- just the desire to know my Lord, and to be known by Him. The Lord granted me my desires, and I began a faith walk of extraordinary measure. It has not been easy nor has it always been pleasant. But the Lord has been my rock and my refuge, my ever present strength, and He has never left my side. I have grown to love Him deeply, and to trust and rely upon Him for my every need. I have suffered devastating loss, and I have learned what it means to be "born a new," to be recreated in Christ Jesus. The person I am today is not the person I was back then. I have been changed supernaturally to experience the presence of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, I am at this delicate cross-roads, about to embark on a career for the rest of my days, and this thought scares me. I have to choose one way to go. I cannot "do over" from this point on, and that fact, frightens me. I don't want to make this choice, to make a mistake, and so I have trusted the Lord to decide for me. I have asked Him to choose the way for me to go, and hence, I am where I am because of His decision. I cannot say to Him, "Uh, okay, let me try now" because who am I to say to Almighty God that I can do a better job of it? No, I may not see the end right now, but I have to believe that His choice for my life is a good one, it is a very good one.

Choosing Whom to Serve

In Joshua 24:15, we read the powerful words of Joshua as he encouraged the Israelites,

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

When we make the decision to choose to serve the Living God, we also make the decision to sacrifice our ability to choose our own way. We lay down our life so that we can take up the life given to us by Jesus Christ. We submit, we yield, and we give way to let the Lord be Sovereign over every detail, every decision, and every direction we consider. Choosing whom we serve means that we are willingly choosing servant-hood, slavery, to Almighty God, and that means that we relinquish our ability, our right, our power to make any plans for our life. Many, many believers in Christ understand this fact, and have learned how difficult it is to be a servant of the Lord. Many others profess Christ, but they refuse to lay down their lives and live wholly devoted to Him. I believe that true servant-hood begins the moment we let go of ourselves and embrace the new life given to us by our Lord and Savior. Until we understand the nature of His sacrifice for us, we can never fully grasp what it means to be a servant of the Lord Most High.

I made the decision to serve the Lord 8 years ago. Prior to that time, I was a believer in Jesus, but not a servant of His. I walked my own way, made my own decisions, and did whatever was pleasing in my own eyes. Sure, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit, confessing regularly for the sins I committed. I lived in the battle zone of my wants, needs, and desires versus His wants, needs, and desires for me. One day, I gave up, I gave in, and I asked for more -- more of Him, and less of me. That was the day my life changed. I realized how selfish I had been, how I had known Him intellectually, but not spiritually, and how the emptiness in my life was magnified by the loneliness I felt day in and day out. I was lost, and I knew it. I needed Him, and I needed to meet Him afresh and in a new way. This time, the second time I confessed Him as Lord, something inside of me changed. I laid down my life, and I took up my cross to follow after Him. I became His bondslave, a servant, and I let go of my desires for my own way. I chose to follow Him in His way.

It has been a long and a difficult journey, but what I have experienced is beyond words. I have never felt a love so deeply, some completely, and so assuredly before, and I am filled with peace, a sense of abiding peace that keeps me safe and secure. My life is brand new, and the path I walk on is directed by His desires for me. He has a plan for my life and it is a good. He has a path for me to follow and it is good. The Lord leads me, and I follow -- not the other way around. Where He goes, I go. Where He leads, I follow. It is as simple as that...not rocket science...but just a love relationship predicated on the finished work of my Lord and Savior. 

I love Him because He first loved me (1 John 4:19). There is nothing more to add because it says it all. God is good, so very good. All the time, He is good.

References

Siger, J. (2012). Dream Interpretation: What Do Flood Dreams Mean? | Dream Prophesy. Retrieved from http://www.dreamprophesy.com/flood-dream-meaning/

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