(note: readers will perhaps excuse the following. It is a very personal revelation of experience, an effort to give a faithful reading to basic “work” by a little one, a follower of Jesus, who we remember this week died a death both timely and untimely, and who we are told was raised again. It is an experience of moving from “being told” to some other basis for information. It is imperfect because words are imperfect, as am I.)
Late last Thursday night, in a state of high dissatisfaction with the pious mutterings of others and myself, in some despair over the theological conversations on this and most other blogs, and finding even the “god talk” of the prayer book increasingly empty short hand for the deep bedrock sensibility that makes all talk of divinity possible, I fell asleep.
Sleep comes easily to me and dreaming is vaporous and not usually remembered long enough to linger into my waking state. So I slept and dreamed. But that night and dream was different. Here is the dream I had.
In my dream I found myself in a room, or perhaps a large pavilion, with a group of people who seemed anxious or perplexed. They were speaking in low voices, but I could tell from what they were saying that they were friends of Jesus, and that they were trying to come to grips with his death. I realized (good biblical education is useful for something) that I have been transported to a post death gathering of followers of Jesus. I don’t recognize anyone, and no one says, “Oh, that’s Peter,” or “what is John saying?” There are no names identifying people. The feeling is that of a funeral parlor where a person who had died unexpectedly or out of order. There is the anxious and questioning presence of a doubt – the doubt that there was meaning in this life and if in this life, in ours as well. Very quickly, and without much contact with others in the room, I took on their anxious questioning.
And then someone entered the room who seemed to absorb all that anxiety, and without addressing the group as a whole, and without even being a person of note ( I don’t have any sense of what he or she looked like, although I knew the presence of the person, as did everyone else), the person spoke and said,
“It will all be alright. Just as I said. It will be alright and what I promised will be true.”
I was positive it was Jesus, and that I was one of his friends and a follower and that I was meant to be there.
At that point I woke up and realized that I had this grin on my face… I could feel the muscles on my face pulling the lips and cheeks out and my mouth smiling. In the dark I began to chuckle. (fortunately Kathryn slept on...)
Relaxing into a waking smile (a wonderful place to wake to) I tried to make a bit of sense of what I had experienced in the dream. I dreamed the Resurrection. I am sure of it. I dreamed the great dream – that it will indeed “all be alright.” I dreamed the great dreamer, Jesus, who died and in whose death the dream might also have died, but it didn't. I dreamed Jesus present after his death, urging us, and me, on with the non-anxious words, “It will all be alright. Just as I said. It will be alright and what I promised will be true.” At the same time I didn't see Jesus, or at least not to recognize him. But I knew he was there. I smiled because now it was sure.
And I thought, what was missing in the “god talk” and the theology and the piety was a sense of the Spirit present, a Pentecostal fire that invites the old to have dreams and the young to have visions. Perhaps the Resurrection is known mostly as dream or vision. Perhaps even then, in those first few days after the death of Jesus it was dream and vision that led the way forward into hope in spite of hope.
Well. There it is.
So the next day, Friday, I went to my studio and sat with a block and began to carve a freehand feeling response to the dream, a flow of carved lines that somehow related to the dream. When I finished and printed out what I had done, I had this:
It seems to me to be an illustration of a man (nose to the left, eye in the upper center). It is me, I think, looking with amazement and just a bit of a smile in the making. It is a snapshot of someone who just realized the Resurrection of Jesus, and of himself.
Perhaps I am just an old man, Perhaps I am a dreamer. Certainly I am an artist of little consequence. But perhaps too I am beginning new work. What is the Pentecostal report on all the theological mutterings with which I have filled my mind? How can the Spirit inform our dreams, our beliefs, and our theology?
Perhaps the Spirit will provide the way to face into the Resurrection. Perhaps we will dream the great dream and even the great anvil of entropy will not overcome it.
Hang in there (or perhaps hang on there), the dream is always on the way to real.