In all the excitement of the glove thing on Monday, January 27, I forgot about an important detail. Then Tuesday was its own special brand of crazy. So the relatively minor task of getting caught up on Monday has become the more complex task of getting caught up on Monday while relating all of Tuesday, especially in context of Monday and some months prior. And now I’m tired from typing that sentence.
Monday morning, I had a dream. The dream featured my first car. The car was a hand-me-down that my folks gave me when I first started driving. There was bright sunlight shining directly overhead during the entire dream. In the first part of the dream, the car evidently wasn’t running, because there was a man pushing it. I was watching him push the car. The man was grinning broadly at me, as if he knew me. Then the hood of the car was opened, and the car was running. But the idle was rough, and the car was shaking. Under the hood things didn’t look right. There was very little of what you’d expect to see in a fully staffed engine compartment. There was one long component, fully enclosed in orange metal. I believed it to be the drive train. There were more metal- enclosed components on the other side of the engine compartment. I didn’t wonder about them. There was a lot of empty space under the hood. I wondered if I hadn’t put some bad fuel in the car, causing it to idle roughly. Then the dream ended, and I woke up soon afterwards.
I was troubled and intrigued. If dream vehicles can represent our real-life personal ministry, that dream vehicle didn’t represent a very solid ministry. Significant to that end were the facts that the vehicle was my first car; it wasn’t running at all, requiring that someone I’d never seen before should push it; and then it was running roughly, with a lot of parts apparently missing. I’d prefer that a dream vehicle representing my personal ministry be a tank. Or maybe something more modest, like a large, early model American sedan, with twin retractable .50 caliber machine guns in the hood. And why did the stranger look so friendly? These thoughts occupied my mind during my walk to work. I completely forgot about the dream once the glove episode happened. I didn’t remember it again until Monday evening. I had planned to blog about the dream on Tuesday evening, but Tuesday got interesting, which I’ve already said.
Picking back up at the point on Monday when the man stuck his head out of the blankets: I knew that I’d seen him before, and I instantly believed (and still believe) he was the man I’d seen in the apartments near my office the previous week. What I didn’t remember at the time was that the man in the blankets looked a whole lot like the guy in my dream who was pushing my car. Tuesday evening, when I remembered the dream, I did immediately connect the dream man with the guy I’d given my glove to on Monday. If it wasn’t the same guy, they should consider being brothers, at least. Twins. And I’m too far down the rabbit hole to consider it remotely strange that I’d dream about a guy pushing my car (ministry) along, about an hour before I actually gave the real-life version of him one of my Proverbs gloves.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” He was helping me in my dream, and I helped him in real life. For all I know, the guy was an angel tasked with moving me along the path of whatever is my ministry. Or if he was a flesh-and-blood human, then he could still have represented an opportunity from God to move things along; in that case his appearance in my dream was God’s way of letting me know He was involved. I guess.
My outward actions Monday morning were consistent with the prompt I felt just before finding the man. But I wasn’t giving joyfully. While I was ultimately obedient to what I thought was a prompt from God, there was no cheerful heart involved. It wasn’t only due to the fact that I’m such mean ol’ hard-hearted sonofagun. I routinely give time, money, and other resources where I think there is a need. I rarely give anything to people on the streets, because I don’t know the whole story of why they are there asking me for money. Always money, on the streets. Anyway, I don’t like to put resources towards an unknown consumer, be the consumer human or not; there’s a potential for waste and fraud. So I have no time for the average panhandler. Complicating things further, I will always remember a feature story in my university newspaper, in which the author interviewed several of a constant crowd of transients that lived under a bridge near campus. Those guys were all living on the streets by choice, bringing in what would be even by today’s standard a pretty nice tax-free income, every day. So, when I see someone on the streets once, twice, or a thousand times, I don’t default to a posture of automatic sympathy.
What all of that reveals about me is that I like to give almost exclusively on my own terms. With regard to what God thinks about any of it, I assume He’s at least not entirely displeased. But if I can figure out that I like to give on my own terms, He certainly is aware of it. He naturally wants us to do things on His terms. His terms are always the better of the two, unless our terms are already aligned with His. The glove incident was a perfect challenge for me. I was quite satisfied with having gloves that were 1) on my hands, 2) keeping my hands warm, 3) matching each other, and 4) mine (MINE). And I knew nothing of what motivated the man under the blankets to sleep next to that bridge on Sunday night.
I was alone in my thoughts about the perplexing dream, wearing gloves that served a purpose at the moment, not least of which was representing a sentimental bond to a good friend. Then there was the whiplash sequence of me being alertly pleased that I had the gloves on, followed by an immediate challenge to give them up. I was physically moved to rebellious anger by the challenge. Such a gifting would not be anywhere near my own terms. Then there was the surprise sleeping pile, unprecedented in my walks to work, which obviously represented a chance to give up something I valued, and not at all on my own terms. “How do I know that guy isn’t intentionally bailing on a work-a-day life, for a life relatively free of structure and responsibilities? Suppose he’s already got fifteen gloves in that bed pile with him.” THESE ARE NOT THE TERMS I WOULD HAVE CHOSEN, GOD.
I ultimately did give away a glove. My heart wasn’t completely softened to the situation until I read Proverbs 17:17 on the internet in my office. So I don’t come away from the experience thinking God was especially pleased with my heart, which is His primary concern. But I do think I’m that much closer to knowing His voice; and, hopefully, He’s that much more comfortable knowing I’ll be obedient even when I really don’t want to be.
The car dream memory/revelation was big news on Tuesday. But it wasn’t the biggest.