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Our God of dreams

Illustrated woman sleeping with sheepby Venice R. Williams

We spend too much time dreaming for our dreams to not have significant meaning in our lives. God would not have us wasting so much of our time dreaming if dreams were of no importance to our faith and our life journeys.

I repeat these or similar words every time I lead a four- to six-week dream course for women. I teach dream courses because I believe our dreams can have deep signifi­cance. After all, we worship a God who used dreams and visions—also known as waking dreams—to com­municate with our biblical ances­tors. God often used dreams to grab people’s attention when an important message needed to be shared and when God’s plan was to be revealed. Throughout Scripture, dreams reminded God’s people not only who was in charge, but how things would unfold.

Scripture after scripture in the holy Bible describes how God sent God’s people visions and dreams. Here are just a few instances: After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1). But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and God has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed (Daniel 2:28). And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him (Daniel 2:28).

Yet somewhere along the way, many of us forgot the value of dreams. At some point, while determining what would be necessary to pay attention to as God’s children who light can­dles, sing psalms, offer prayers and perform liturgical dances, we omit­ted from our confirmation classes, our new member sessions, our lead­ership and council member train­ings, these words: Pay attention to your dreams.

In our hesitation to embrace mystery, our fear of the unknown, our fear of that which we do not fully understand and cannot control, we can become believers who ignore and even deny our night visions, our dreams. But we spend too much time dreaming for our dreams to not have significant meaning in our lives. Why would God have us waste so much of our time dreaming if dreams were of no importance to our faith and life’s journey?

I have never had the luxury of ignoring my dreams. God blessed me with being able to remember, learn from and heed these mes­sages. As far back as I can remem­ber, my dreams have always guided me, “told” me things and created a blueprint for my priorities in the next day, week or year. Even as a child, I knew my dreams were from God, even if from time-to-time those dreams were hard for some of the adults in my life to accept and to hear. Very early, I learned to keep my dreams to myself.  Fear in the eyes and voice of an aunt or parent, upon conveying what you saw the night before in a dream, is enough to make any young one obey the warning to just be quiet and go play. I spent years just keeping things to myself. I began scribbling words and images from my dreams in notebooks, on envelopes and scraps of papers. I have never stopped making a record of them.  

My dreams make me more awake! My best sermons come to me as I sleep. In my dreams, I write poems and songs which never materialize as clearly when I am awake. During those deep hours of the night, I am escorted to friends and family members who could use a phone call or visit from me, intro­duced to strangers who will be com­ing my way. When my eyes open, my ministry begins. My dreams sanction the actions I need to take in my own life. When I obey, I dream that dream no more. If my response is delayed, the dream returns.

Like Jacob, I have emotionally wrestled with God in my dreams. There are nighttime instructions I do not always want to follow, people who I know are not ready to hear what the Lord is asking me to say. Still, I must go. I must speak. I must deliver the message. Now I have a small circle of close friends who ask me about my dreams even when I have no intention of sharing with them. Venice, what are you dreaming about these days? Venice, have you dreamt about me?

Venice R. Williams is executive director of Alice’s Garden Urban Farm and The Body and Soul Healing Arts Center, both in Milwau­kee. She is also the developer of a new ELCA worshipping community called The Table, a first century-style church in the 21st century.  

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