But sometimes, my dreams point to a relational truth about my life I need to take a look at: a resentment at work, for example, or a challenge in my marriage.
Or maybe a struggle to trust God.
Last week, I had a dream in which I was traveling on a plane. God was the pilot. But he was flying recklessly, and I was getting angry.
I was the only passenger on the flight, and the door to the cockpit was open, so I charged to the front of the plane and braced myself in the cockpit doorway. Through the windshield, I saw the landscape shifting erratically as the plane banked and dove and rose again in unpredictable jerks.
“What are you doing?!?” I shouted. Even over the roar of the engines, I could hear the fear and anger in my voice.
I woke up before I got an answer.
Believe me, if I’d heard an answer, I’d share it with you. I know I’m not the only one who’s boarded that plane. You know what I’m talking about, right? There are seasons in life when sudden twists and unexpected nose-dives send your stomach leaping to your throat and your hand grabbing for the airsick bag.
There are moments when I wonder if I can trust the pilot.
The images in my dream prompted me to take a closer look at what trusting God really means.
There’s a story in John 6 where Jesus says some hard stuff to the crowd that’s been following him. As a result, many of the people bail out. They walk away. Seeing this, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks if they’re going to leave, too. Peter speaks up and answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69, ESV)
That’s me. I’ve leaned my life against God. I believe he is who he says he is, and that he’ll keep all his promises. That piece is settled. There were two deals on the table, and I took the one with the plane ticket. Big picture trust means this: I’m on the plane.
But the big picture isn’t everything. It’s filled with all manner of little pictures. How am I going to conduct myself moment-by-moment on the flight, particularly when it seems like God is flying irresponsibly?
In my dream, I fight my way to the cockpit to shout my questions. And strange as it seems, this is a sort of trust. I am, after all, taking my fears and emotions to God. It’s not pretty, but I’m bringing who I am, in that moment, to God, rather than running from him. And that’s a good thing. (It reminds me of King David, questioning God, wondering why God hasn’t come to his aid. Pouring out his complaint in what are called the lament Psalms. See Psalm 13 for an example.)
There are, of course, other (less trusting) options I could have taken in my dream plane.
I could have kicked God out of the pilot seat and grabbed the controls. I do this sometimes. I look out the windshield of my life, and figure I’ve got a better plan than God, and so I program in a new route. Initially, this seems like a great idea, but it doesn’t generally pan out. (Check out the book of Jonah in the Bible, and watch how things unfold when Jonah revises God’s original Nineveh-bound flight plan.)
Alternately, I could have retreated to the back of the plane, as far from God as I could get. I could have strapped myself into a seat, huddled in fear, and waited white-knuckled for the oxygen mask to drop. I could have weathered the turbulence alone, refusing the available comfort of God. (Witness how the people of Jerusalem shun God’s comfort in Matthew 23:37, though Jesus longs to gather them under his wings, like a hen would her chicks.)
Or I could have hovered over God’s shoulder and nagged him, back-seat-driver like, telling him what he should be doing instead. (This doesn’t go so well for Peter when he tries it in Matthew 16:21-23.)
In my dream, I shouted at God, “What are you doing?!?”
I woke up before I got an answer.
Sometimes God doesn’t answer that question (whether I’m asleep or awake). Truth is, he guarantees his presence and his love in all the twists and turns of my life, but doesn’t owe me an explanation for them.
Ultimately, I’d like to get to the place where, even in my anxiety, I could enter the cockpit and sit in the seat next to God. I’d buckle up and ask where we’re headed and if there’s anything he’d like me to do. Learn to draw my contentment from what I see in his face and hear in his voice, rather than in what I see out the windshield. (Paul learned this kind of contentment, and talks about it in Philippians 4:11-13.)
The capital “T” trust issue is settled for me: I’m on the plane, and I’m not getting off. But lowercase “t” trust is a big issue for me, a moment-by-moment one—and you can very quickly tell how I’m doing with it.
Just look at where I’m sitting on the plane.
Kirsten Wilson teaches at Colorado Christian University. She’s attended Flatirons for six years, and facilitates groups at Shift on Friday nights.