Jacob recognized something special about that dream of his. Are we clever enough to do the same?
as retold by Deborah
Jacob left his parents’ home and set out for the house of his mother’s brother Laban.
It was getting dark when he found a place to stop. Using a stone as a headrest, he lay down to sleep.
Jacob dreamed that there was a ladder reaching from the earth to heaven, and angels were traveling up and down it.
Then the Lord appeared beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father and your grandfather; I’m going to give the land you’re resting on to you and your descendants — who will be as numerous as the stars in the sky; they will spread to the four corners of the earth, and all the people of the earth will be blessed through you and your children.
“I am with you and will keep you safe wherever you go, and will bring you back here again; I’ll be with you until all this comes to pass just as I’ve promised.”
Jacob awoke in a cold sweat, “God is right here — and I didn’t realize it! This place is eerie; it is the entrance to heaven!”
So Jacob got up first thing in the morning and took the stone he had used as a pillow and set it up as a pillar and anointed it with oil, to confirm that this was indeed holy ground.
And he called the place “God’s House.”
I was standing in my back yard underneath the big pine tree when I started to fly. All at once my body lifted up about three feet off the ground and hovered there. It didn’t require any effort to move about; I didn’t have to flap my arms or kick my feet, I simply reached out and sailed up and over the fence and into the sky.
For several minutes I soared above the earth. Below me were trees and gardens and rivers — all things bright and beautiful. I was relaxed and happy, and not the least bit surprised by my new ability. It was glorious.
Then a lilting tune drew me up, up through a gray mist …. and I awoke to the sound of the alarm clock. It was only dream.
You’ve probably had the same dream, or one very similar. Researchers have established that all humans (all mammals, in fact) dream — a lot. Approximately every ninety minutes throughout the night there’s another production. Sometimes these are in living color, sometimes in starkest black and white, sometimes as mere shadows on a wall. Sometimes we sit back and watch, sometimes we participate; sometimes we’re only minor characters, sometimes we’re the star.
A lot of dreams are residue from our brains’ work of sorting and filing all that we have seen and heard and done. Surplus data overwhelms the system and some of the material spills out, half-digested, in strange, unrecognizable images. These nonsense dreams vanish the moment we open our eyes, and leave no lasting impression.
But there are other dreams… dreams that stay with us; dreams that are disturbing or confusing or even frightening. There are dreams from which we awaken, blinking and shivering, “What on earth was that about??”
That’s the kind of dream Jacob had; it was weird and scary and immensely powerful. Even though the message was reassuring, it seems to have freaked him out — he could hardly wait to get way from there the next morning.
Perhaps that’s because it was a message.
Jacob recognized that this was no ordinary dream; it was an otherworldly vision that spoke clearly and directly to him.
This time, as they say, it’s personal.
Here is a cocky, clever youngster, convinced he’s always the smartest guy in the room, reveling in trickery and jokes; as his mother’s favorite, Jacob has “gotten away with murder” his whole life. Believing that he is entitled to the family inheritance, he pulls off a major scam — and cheats his brother out of their father’s dying blessing (by wrapping himself in a goatskin, no less!). This is the last straw. There is nothing funny about it; it isn’t a joking matter. Mom can no longer protect him; Esau is out for blood, and Jacob is now on the run.
Life has changed forever, radically, irreparably. The smirking trickster is no more. Exhausted, frightened, confused, and regretful, the young man takes shelter, alone in the darkness. Perhaps he cries himself to sleep.
Why am I here? How did this happen? Why did it happen? Where can I go? What can I do? What should I do? — These are the questions Jacob must have asked as he faced his uncertain future. Perhaps he wondered if he even had a future.
We’ve all been there. Maybe not on a hilltop in Palestine, but somewhere at sometime we’ve asked those kinds of questions. Perhaps you are asking them in your life right now.
And so we pray. Except that sometimes we don’t, because life is too chaotic and we can’t focus and don’t know what to say; problems continually arise, interrupting us, stirring up our brain: we feel like Jacob, on the run from the many troubles that pursue us.
And even if we do pray, we don’t always get an answer. Or maybe we do and just don’t realize it — which brings us back to Jacob.
There he was; alone, homeless, despairing; his future as bleak as the landscape. Jacob had nothing: no money, no herds, no land, no skills, and no hope. His own brother hated him and wanted him dead. It was a true dark night of the soul.
Then he had a dream. The dream was so vivid, so real, and so awe-filled that it could not be ignored or forgotten. Jacob knew it to be God’s own voice, speaking to him. It was a promise to him and to future generations and an assurance of divine protection and presence now and in the days to come.
And Jacob was transformed. The dream did not eliminate his problems; his situation remained unchanged, but it gave him the strength and the courage to go on. Jacob was no longer afraid; he had a sense of purpose and meaning. In the morning he packed up his gear and got on with the adventure of living.
Sounds pretty good. Perhaps we, too, ought to pay attention to our dreams.
Ah yes, you say, but that was then, and he was Jacob — a man destined to be “father of a great nation.” But who knows what great things we might do? Amazing things can grow from the smallest of seeds.
Perhaps we should approach our “big dreams,” with respect — as if they were delivered by ministering angels. If we paid close attention to the images they offer and the words they choose, what might we learn? What might we be encouraged and inspired to do?
Like Jacob, we are all dreamers. Every time we go to sleep we are positively inundated with dreams — an average of 4 or 5 every night. Science has yet to detect a “reason” for them; yet our dreams are so essential that, when deprived of them, we go mad.
That’s something to think about.
And what about our daylight dreams: those fond wishes of our heart?
Daydreams, too, can be bearers of inspiration and holy insights; bringing us hints of what is possible, giving us new ways of seeing the world, and reminding us of the blessed Kingdom that has yet to be completed.
Famously, Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream which gave his life and the lives of countless others a powerful meaning and purpose. On a humbler scale, a slightly dotty Englishwoman dreamed of becoming a singing star and, in her pursuit of that dream, amazed and inspired people around the world.
Dreams can make a difference. I encourage you to follow yours.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
What are your dreams?
Keep a dream journal beside your bed.
“Big dreams” can transform us, encourage us, inspire us — and they always bless us. They are quite different from delusions, which are harmful and often destructive. We will recognize what is holy by the message it brings. As the Lord Christ said, “By their fruits you will know them” Matthew 7:16.
Link to Susan Boyle’s first audition (which still makes me cry every time I watch it)