Monday, March 21, 2011
I had a very odd dream the other night. Maybe it was because we were laughing after church about the occasional rumors that have gone around during my ministry that I was pregnant…which would have put me up at around 10 children by now. (NO, I’m not pregnant.) But for whatever reason, I had an odd dream that I went to a hospital and a baby girl was presented to me that looked like me, blue eyes and dark hair, and that she was “mine.” I was to take her home, even though I was totally unprepared to do so, and even more pressingly, I was to give her a name. I froze. I didn’t know this baby’s name.
There I was, in this crazy dream, with a brand new baby, thought to be mine, to name and raise. What a conundrum I was in! I remember trying to wildly run through names and remember the pros and cons of them like we had when we named our own children. But I was panicked. What if I gave this brand new person the wrong name? Thank goodness I woke up shortly thereafter. But the dream has continued to haunt me. Who was that baby? Who did she belong to? Was she mine, or, even more perplexing, was she me? Am I to interpret this metaphorically as an image of my own personal resurrection in some way? What did that dream mean? What was her name?
I believe with great enthusiasm that all of our lives are full of little resurrections. We are not people with faith, but we are people on a journey of faith. We are constantly turning our lives over to Jesus Christ; deepening our dependence on him, learning what he wants us to do with our lives, and claiming our experience of him as the way forward towards our goal of perfect relationship with him. We are never done with this task. It will be a journey from cradle to grave for every one of us, and in the midst of this, there are moments of newness and clarity that are astounding. They are like births when we are named again.
In my life, it seems those moments of newness and clarity have often been around times of struggle with my faith. I remember, for instance, in 1986, when in virtual faithlessness, I somehow managed to reconnect my life weakly back to Jesus Christ by visiting a church. It was not a church I had ever attended before, nor do I remember anything about it now, except that I was virtually faithless, and God used that tiny step I made towards him, to jumpstart a new beginning in my life. It was not yet a time of renaming, but the moment wasn't far away.
As I began from that time to worship more regularly in a nearby congregation, it seemed that things were changing in me. Old anxieties were abating and new questions were arising faster than I could answer them. I found myself wondering who this God was really? For reasons that made no sense at the time, I went to a public library, took out a book and read for myself for the first time the graphic details of Jesus' scourging, suffering and death at the hands of the Romans, and wondered why a man of such wisdom and integrity would submit to such a thing without defending himself or protesting? For the first time in my life I sensed both the hope and dismay that was symbolized by his cross. Why did he do it? Could it have anything actually to do with me? Would believing in this man who suffered so in dying, and was somehow still strangely alive in this church where I was worshiping, be a direction for my life that I should trust? What if I did believe in him as worthy of my commitment? What if I did not?
Questions followed questions, until finally Christ whispered softly enough for me to hear him through all my frantic questioning, and said, “Stop worrying so much, just trust in me! I'll take care of the worrying, in fact, I'll take care of you. I can give you an role to play in the most amazing story you've ever known, and I'll even tell you your real name; 'Jennifer, Beloved of God'.” It was the most joyous moment of my life, the moment I learned my "real" name, the moment I started to belong to Jesus Christ.
That is what my dream reminds me of, all the literally newborn and the no-longer-newborn human beings walking around not knowing who they are, or where they can find peace and joy for their lives. They are angry, they are hopeless, they are lonely, they are full of anxieties and fears with no way to make them go away. You know these people. They may even be you.
Lent is a time for all wanderers and all questioners to find their way home in order to be given their true name. As in baptism we speak the child's name and affirm that they are "child of God," I am aware that every time we gather for Sunday worship we need to reaffirm the name of each person who is present; 'Beloved of God'. Especially in this season of Lent as we approach Easter, we need to rehearse again and again our name. Who are we this day? 'Beloved of God'. What does Christ long for us to claim? That we are 'Beloved of God'. Who might I encounter this day who needs to know they are 'Beloved of God'?
I guess I'm still asking a lot of questions even now that I know my name really well. And as I said, on this fierce journey I am living, I sometimes stumble over my questions of faith again, and have to be refamiliarized with my name and reality in Jesus' amazing, on-going story. But more often than not, I ask the questions now not for my sake, but for the sake of all the other nameless babies, who are being handed to me metaphorically, who need to be named...who need to know 'You are, Beloved of God' means them.
I suspect the interpretation of my dream falls pretty nearly right about here.