…I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams…
I was praying before bed the other night that God would give me visions and dreams.
It wasn’t a request for a spiritual attainment of any sort; no, it was a plea for help. It was a prayer thrown up to the throne of God, begging for something to give way.
I can’t well describe the place I’ve been in the past few months, except for the last post in which I revealed my utter lack of clarity and assurance of things. This weekend, after a lovely and blessed women’s conference in our fellowship and a lengthy and vulnerable conversation with my dear husband over moonlit pillows, the foundation of this blinding wall began to crack a little bit and I felt the kind of excitement one feels when labor pains begin for real: the pain is trumped, in the beginning, by a sense of relief.
“Give me signs, and visions, and dreams … even tonight, Lord, that I might begin to understand,” I breathed softly to Him in the wee, dark hours.
I woke up the next morning (late, of course), and busily prepared myself and the three males in my life for church, arrived there early as usual to set up, organize, rehearse for worship, get classrooms and teachers prepared; we prayed, we greeted, we sang, we taught, then we did it all over again. Not until 11:30 am did I sit down, in a chair in the sanctuary, and let the Word of God fill me up.
And as our pastor preached, saying no less than five of the things my husband and I had discussed the night prior (talk about confirmation!), I drifted softly to a place of peace, remembering basic things, returning to the first love, settling quietly into a forgotten grace from God.
About halfway through the sermon, though, I recalled spontaneously a dream I had had the night before. It was strange, the way it came up, popped into my mind out of nowhere, and I actually momentarily tried to talk myself out of thinking about it — I was in church, after all. And then I remembered my half-asleep grasp at prayer for a dream, a vision. It actually was more like a vision in that there wasn’t much of a story line: just a brief glimpse into something inside myself that I didn’t know was there. And so I let it unravel in a strange deja vu kind of way.
Essentially, in this vision, there were all of these things flying around me, like dark, black birds. I stood down below their swooping in a large field. In my mind’s eye, I was very small, like the camera was zoomed out.
Somehow, I understood right off the bat that these flying birds were my critical thoughts and bad habits and sin — all the things about myself and my life that I am warring against on a daily basis. I remembered thinking to myself (as is only possibly in a dream), How do I take these things down? and almost simultaneously, a large black machine gun appeared in my arms. I began to shoot at them, hitting some, and missing others.
So, as I’m letting this scene unfold again in my mind, my ears tune in momentarily to the sermon at hand. Pastor is talking about self-help as a form of self-glorification; resourcefulness as a form of self-glorification; determined self-will as a form of self-glorification…
I once told a small Christian group I was a part of in college (before I was actually a Christian, ironically) that one of the ways by which I knew there had to be a God was in the process of learning. In college, being of the “mathletic” variety, I would sit hunched over books and notes working out the complexities of word problems, over and over, again until I “got it.” And there were specific times when I would be completely privy to this phenomena of “learning” a concept — I would not understand something, and then, suddenly, the gears would click together somehow and God mercifully let my own mind observe this process, strangely. Though I suppose it was all in the name of drawing me to Himself. Which was a perfect plan because I remember marveling so openly at this mystery.
But I have found that there is no such learning that compares to the clarity and understanding that comes with real conviction from God.
As the gravity of this “vision” I had experienced began to sit in, my self-glorification stared at me creepily and without remorse, right into my own eyes: I have been playing all the characters in my own story. This realization resonated so completely, so plainly, that there was absolutely no avoiding it. I have been the author, the main character, the villain in my own story; I have been the doctor who gives the diagnosis, the prescriptor, and the patient in my own disease; I have been the prosecutor, the judge, and the defendant in my own trial.
That is ultimate self-glorification, by the way. It’s not so much that I think highly of myself — most of the time, it’s quite the opposite. But there’s no room in my story for anyone else. I play all the parts, and I hog the show.
What the Holy Spirit convicted me of, in seeing myself armed with that gun and shooting down those black things in my mind’s sky, is that there is a war going on inside of me — a war that is common to man, and written plainly in Romans 7. There is a battle between the spirit and flesh, light and darkness, and even between who I am and who I want to be. There is a gap between my mind and my heart, my conscience and my created being; and there always will be, for me, and for all of us. But just like one cannot judge and defend his own self fairly, I cannot be my villain and my hero. I am a house divided, and I cannot — will not — stand.
So I stood mocked by 1 Samuel 17:47, found at the end of my children’t favorite Bible story, where David stands before the giant Goliath and proclaims that “the battle belongs to the Lord.” You know, when I read that story — which I do, often, for the sake of the kids — I see David as the hero, not God. I see David as “a good shot” and a “faithful boy” and a “fearless servant” and as “anointed by the Spirit.” And I look to those things in my own life, too. My gifts, my callings, my faith, even my mistakes made redeemed. Me, me, me, me.
But the battle does belong to the Lord. And I need to stop it. I need to put my own weapons down, disengage from my own war, and I need to repent, turn the other way, walk back to the place of hiding, and surrender God’s glory back to Him, the rightful owner. I would never in all my lifetime have called myself a show-off. But that’s what I’ve been doing to Jesus. I’ve been trying to show Him how wonderfully I can do without Him.
I am a Christian. And I’ve been stealing God’s glory.
Oh, Lord, thank you for knowing that I would do this and already forgiving me for it. I am sorry for trying to prove to you how well I can do on my own, how much war I can withstand without Your help. I am failing and losing the battle, and I have no rest. I am sorry for believing in my heart that I can do this on my own. Lord, you anticipate my needs and provide a solution before I even know there is a problem. You have already known that I would be, that I am, in my own heart, a house divided — split down the middle between flesh and Your Spirit and these things will never be at peace with one another. I will never find rest apart from You.
I choose today, Lord, to lay down my weapons — my resourcefulness, my hope in myself, my determination and will and my belief that I am strong — my self-glorification belongs to You now. I am not glorified in it. I am ashamed and debased.
God, it goes against my flesh to even pray this, but Lord, I want YOU to be the main character in my story. I must decrease, Lord, and you must increase. I don’t really want this to be true — I’d rather be the center of attention — but I know enough to know that You have better things for me than I can have for myself. I have tasted and seen, Lord, that you are good. And I am not.
And Lord, I pray for anyone who might read this, that if they, too, struggle with playing all the parts of their own story, they might find rest in You and not only in Your willingness to fight the battle for them, but in Your provision that it is already finished and that you have won.
Thank you, Jesus.