We humans literally cannot live without our dreams.
as interpreted by Deborah
After the Magi left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get out of here, now! Take the child and his mother and go to Egypt, and stay there until I give the all clear; because Herod will hunt down the child and kill him.”
So Joseph took Jesus and Mary and fled in the night. They went to Egypt where they stayed until Herod’s death.
When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he ordered the execution of all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, based on what the wise men had told him.
Immediately after Herod died an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up; take the child and his mother, and return to Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.”
So Joseph got up and took Jesus and Mary and returned to Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
After being warned in a dream, he went to Galilee, and settled in the town of Nazareth.
In Matthew’s gospel we are told that Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, was a man of faith and action who was inspired by messages received while he slept: angelic messages which he trusted implicitly and heeded immediately.
In one dream he was advised to marry his pregnant fiancé — contrary to what he had already decided — and so he did (Mt 1:18-25).
Another warned Joseph that Jesus’ life was in danger, and instructed him to flee to Egypt — and so he did, at once, rising in the middle of the night to take the Child and his mother to safety (Mt 2:13-14).
In the last dream that we know about, Joseph learns that he can now return with his family to Israel — and so he does (Mt 2:18-23).
That one man — aflame with passion and faith — changed to the world.
I read these stories with delight — and more than a bit of envy. Imagine having the trust and faith and courage to immediately take action based on your dreams.
More than that, imagine having dreams that you can understand.
Instead of delivering clearly comprehensible proclamations, most of our nighttime visitors seem to be talking gibberish. Rare indeed are winged angels who speak perfect English; more often the messengers are cloaked in extraordinary disguises, their messages nearly unintelligible.
Rather than being able to “rise up at once” and do as we’ve been advised as did the faithful Joseph, we’re likely to awaken saying, “What on earth was that all about?”
In one of my dreams that I remember most vividly, Leonard Nimoy and I were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Seriously.
While I hope to be faithful in following Christ and attentive to the messages the Beloved sends to me, surely it is not God’s good pleasure that I take up hiking. Or become a Trekkie.
I believe there is more to our dreams than the mere “facts.”
Studies have convincingly demonstrated that all people always dream, every night. But no one knows exactly why we dream, or what purpose our dreams serve.
We know that humans literally cannot live without our dreams. They are so essential that the chronically sleep-deprived experience “waking dreams”: very real-appearing hallucinations that simply take over control of the otherwise-awake brain. Dreams are a part of who we are; and perhaps a part of making it possible for us to be who we are.
Our dreams can be roughly divided into three types: divine communications; envisioned ideas and ideals, and what I call “brain scramble.”
Unfortunately, the percentage of dreams in each category is the reverse of my list. In other words, we get a whole lot more “brain scramble” dreams than we do Holy Messages.
The tricky bit is how to tell which is which.
While we don’t want to miss out on an angelic annunciation, there is little purpose in dissecting the partially-digested contents of yesterday’s news, television programs, paperwork, phone calls, joke emails, grocery shopping and unwashed laundry. To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, “There are times when a dream is simply a dream and nothing more.”
But if we discount all our dreams as mere digestion — or lack thereof — we risk missing out on some potentially hugely-important unfiltered communications. If Joseph had ignored the angel; if he’d gone back to sleep, convinced that his dream was the result of a spicy meal ... who knows what might have happened?
And who would dream (!) of assuming that all heavenly messages will be transmitted in modern English, or presented in bold, 24-point type, or delivered by someone dressed all in white? Perhaps truly powerful revelations must be disguised, lest we be overcome by fear or too awe-inspired to hear clearly. Or maybe, knowing us as the Beloved does, God wraps the message in an intriguing package, in order to catch our attention and hold our interest.
If we wait for a celestial being with big white wings to visit us in the night, we may end up severely disappointed. There is no evidence that it was what we would call an angel that appeared in Joseph’s dreams; it was simply someone/something that he recognized as a truth-bearing messenger (= “angel”).
So how can we recognize divine communication when it appears to us?
The discernment process is between you and the Beloved. Dreams cannot be interpreted by looking up the answers in a book or on line; no one else can tell you what your dream means, any more than anyone else can dream your dreams for you.
Dream interpretation is a form of prayer. It is the faithful seeking-after a holy word sent just for you, personally and particularly.
When we spend time reflecting on the dreams that we have been sent we will be rewarded — we will hear God’s word to us (Mt 7:7).
Don’t be afraid that you won’t “get it.” The only way you will miss the message is if you don’t listen for it, for God knows full-well how to speak a language you understand.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Keep a Dream Journal on your nightstand, and ask the Beloved to guide your prayers. When you awaken from a dream, write down what you remember; be as thorough in your description as possible. Ideally within the next day or two, take time to prayerfully review what you’ve written.
Some of the material you will readily identify as “brain scramble”: leftover bits and pieces of the previous day. Others you’ll recognize as ideas-in-process — perhaps hopes, perhaps fears — of your own devising (e.g., dreams of being back in school, late for a class, or taking a test you didn’t study for). And, every so often, a messenger will appear, bringing you a holy revelation: an affirmation, a warning, a task to be fulfilled ...
You can be assured the dream is from God because it will lead toward life, light, healing, and happiness.