Posted by: Dan | May 24, 2004

Firelight through the Trees

Last night I dreamed this dream.

I was in a forest. Not an old growth forest but a new one, full of alders, the undergrowth was thick, the ground was treacherous. It was night and the foliage was so dense that no moonlight was able to makes it way through to the earth. I was struggling to find my way through the trees. Every now and again I caught the flicker of firelight in the distance. I knew that I had to make it to that fire. I knew that the person I was looking for was waiting for me there. So I rushed on, branches whipping across my face, brambles cutting my shins. Sometimes I fell down, sometimes I stepped into bogs of water, but always I picked myself up and carried on. Gradually the firelight became more visible until I finally broke free into the clearing.

Jesus was sitting by the fire. There was a meal he had cooked for me, and something warm to drink. He looked at me and smiled. It was gentle, and knowing, welcoming and sad all at the same time.

“Sit down,” he said. “Rest your head on my shoulder, talk with me, let my run my fingers through your hair.”

And I wanted to so badly. More than anything I wanted to… but I couldn’t.

Suddenly I was filled with rage.

“What are you doing here?” I cried. “What are you doing preparing a meal, resting yourself, sitting by a fire, when so many people out there are bleeding and suffering and dying? Why aren’t you out there? How can I sit down and rest when I know there are so many who are desperately lost around us? No, I can’t sit down. They need somebody, and I will go.”

And so with tears of anger, desperation and confusion streaming down my cheeks I raised my arm in front of my face and rushed back into the trees. I ran further and further from the fire, until I was once again surrounded by brambles and twisting vines. I plunged so deep into the darkness that no matter where I looked I could no longer see the light of Jesus’ fire. Only the darkness, everywhere the darkness.

Then I woke up.

I guess this all goes back to my question of exile – where is God in all of this? – and my question of vocation – how are we, as the people of God, to be used to bring light to the world? I think I’m still learning what it looks like to trust God with other peoples’ lives. I’m still trying to learn how to rest. And in the midst of all this I think there is a warning – beware of the road that leads away from the rest God offers. How easy it is to say we are serving God, sacrificing for God, taking up our cross, only to discover we have traveled a road that rejects God’s rest. How easy it is to say we long for God’s presence, only to discover we have been so focussed on his absence we can no longer recognize when he actually breaks in.

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Responses

  1. I think the times we are most effective in reaching the world around us is when we are resting with God. Simply being with Him. Its when we walk away from Him and attempt to do things on our own that we get caught up in the woods and only end up hurting ourselves, useless to the world around us. The vine and the branches maybe?

  2. I would like to begin to learn what it looks like to trust God with other people’s lives. Way back in high school, I was arguing with my friend who had been trying to convert me to Christianity. I had said that one of the biggest obstacles for me was the notion that people I loved who were not Christians and who never became Christians would be condemned to hell. And she talked about an anecdote from John White’s The Fight in which White, significantly hampered by anxiety for his family’s sake as they were traveling through some kind of hazard – received this word from God: Don’t you trust me with them? And she said that my concern was a version of this same anxiety, an anxiety that in effect denies the justice and fairness and love of God.

    I don’t know if I buy it, her analogy, but that’s still what I think of when I read your words: Don’t you trust me with them?


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