The airplane was coming closer. It seemed to hang in one spot for a long time, the pounding rhythm constant. Then I saw a green lawn marred by a blackened circle of burnt disfigured earth. It was as though I was looking into the future seeing the results of an inevitable crash. Yet, I did not feel I had to run away. The sound intensified and then I awoke. Momentarily disoriented, I soon realised the sound was no longer that of a struggling airplane, but our water heater warming up. I am not prone to nightmares and I don’t usually remember my dreams. On the rare occasions such as this I have learned to pay attention, not to leap to easy interpretations but prayerfully listen. What could this one mean?
Throughout history dreams and visions have played an important role in shaping beliefs and actions. From ancient campfire conversations to Jungian dream analysis they both fascinate and disturb us. Dreams affirm our interconnectedness and I believe they are one way the Creator reaches out to us. Dreams and visions in a Pandemic warrant careful attention.
A meme on social media captures the downside of simplifying visions. It showed a monochrome still from an old horror movie with a fearful face peaking around a corner. The caption reads “What chapter of the book of Revelation are we living today?”
It is unwise to simplify our complex reality just as it is unwise to use the apocalyptic literature of Revelation lightly. What people remember most about the book are dramatic images of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Armageddon. Yet this is essentially a positive book, full of beautiful drama and poetry, written to encourage the young church in Asia Minor in the face of schism and persecution. It is both allegorical and mythical and was never intended to be reduced to literal interpretations.
Visions and dreams have a pivotal role in the Bible, from Jacob’s dream of the ladder between heaven and earth, to the direction to Joseph to wed a pregnant Mary. Saul/Paul’s vision and conversion is another dramatic example. These people never doubted God’s voice in their dreams/visions. What happened next was their choice. Transformed, they chose to enter into unimagined futures.
In this pandemic many feel the need to hold onto something absolute as we wait and wonder about the “new normal”. There is uncertainty. Where to place our faith? Where to focus our actions? The virus has relentlessly exposed long-term societal inequities. Where now is compassion?
God is, and has always been in the midst of the chaos that is human action or inaction. Do we seek Divine guidance or in our fear have we forgotten to listen, to pay attention? Accepting God’s invitation to create different stories means we must take action, become partners with the Divine as we risk acting in untested ways.
I wonder about my dream. It was an affirmation of God’s presence through the call to be calm and observant. It was also prophetic. The symbolism was vibrant with colour and power. I am not rushing to dissect or simplify the meaning. I wait, listen and remain expectant for things to unfold. My ambient worry and concern have dissipated and I feel empowered to act.
The Reverend Canon Nancy Ford, Deacon, is the Anglican Director of Deacons for the Diocese of British Columbia and Deacon to the City of Victoria out of Christ Church Cathedral.
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* This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, September 26th 2020