Some people dream of long hallways, being chased, showing up somewhere naked, or falling from great heights. I have had some of those dreams, but recently I most consistently dream of *insert dramatic pause*… airports. Strange, right? Nearly all of my dreams take place either in, around, or trying to find an airport. It’s not always the same airport and the storyline of the actual dream might not have anything to do with air travel, but an airport always seems to set the scene. As if that weren’t weird enough, as much as I can remember I have never actually boarded a plane in any dream.
I’m not one to place a lot of stock in dreams. In my mind dream interpretation lands somewhere among horoscopes and fortune telling as far as reliability goes. However, the never-ending airport scenarios were just strange enough to keep my attention. So I did what we all do when we need an answer, I Googled it. Of course I found a slough of questionable sources, so I randomly picked a site that boasted having a dream symbol dictionary and this is what I found: “To see a busy airport in your dream signifies the desire for freedom, high ideals, ambition, and hopes. It is an indication that you are approaching a new departure in your life. Some new idea is taking off or is ready to take off. You may be experiencing a new relationship, new career path or new adventure.” It even reads like a horoscope! Here’s the thing, it also eerily reads pretty true to what I’m experiencing in life right now. Blogging has gone better than I could have imagined, I’ve been accepted into a community of like-minded women in the Redbud Writers Guild, an article I wrote is being “officially” published in my denomination’s magazine, and I’m thinking through a ministry idea that I think could be awesome. If only this dream interpretation had some lucky numbers attached for the next Powerball drawing!
Be forewarned, I’m not opening the discussion on whether or not God still uses dreams to communicate with people like He did in biblical times. I have the comprehensive Word of God at my disposal so, personally, that is where I’m going to seek my true answers. Sorry dreammoods.com, but you’ve got nothing on divine wisdom. When I think of dream fulfillment in relation to scripture, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than the life of Joseph, found in Genesis 37 and 39-50.
Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite son among twelve brothers. This fact was well known by all the brothers, especially obvious by the extravagant multicolored coat their father gave Joseph. There was no confusing who was the favorite son, and, contrary to the culture, it was not the firstborn. It certainly didn’t help this brewing public relations nightmare that Joseph chose to share a couple dreams he had with his brothers where they appeared as stalks of grain and stars, respectively, bowing down before Joseph. This caused a serious rift in the siblings’ relationship with him. So much so that one day when Jacob sends Joseph on an errand to check on his brothers while tending the flocks, the brothers conspire to eliminate his annoying presence from their midst:
They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Genesis 37:18-24
They end up half listening to Reuben, who is actually scheming to gain his father’s favor by rescuing the favorite son, and don’t kill Joseph, but instead sell him to slave traders headed to Egypt. His own brothers sold him into a life sentence of slavery when he was probably still a teenager. I’d say by any cultural terms that’s enough family drama to pretty effectively damage someone. As if that weren’t baggage enough, after spending years as a slave Joseph is falsely accused of rape and, though innocent, is imprisoned.
Joseph becomes obsessed with revenge. During his time in prison he hatches an elaborate scheme to reemerge from this captivity under a new persona and gain vengeance for the dreams his brothers killed when they committed this terrible evil. He lives his days fueling the hate-fire in his belly by systematically plotting his route back to the top.
Not really, that’s loosely the story of Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo. We almost wouldn’t blame Joseph if that was his story though. He had some big dreams in his heart, dreams he could legitimately credit the Lord with gifting him. Certainly his brothers deserved punishment for wrecking the plans the Lord had shown Joseph. How would we have felt in Joseph’s place? Angry at the injustice? Bitter with the family dysfunction? Depressed and hopeless at the dismal outlook for the future? Frustrated, full of doubt, wondering what was to come of the dreams and gifts of leadership the Lord had given?! Slavery and leadership are kind of opposite ends of the career spectrum.
I’m sure he must have felt some of these things. We have to remember that the people we read in scripture were human, just like us. No one goes through that kind of pain without at least shedding a few tears. Surely if nothing else he desperately missed his dad. Scripture doesn’t always tell us how someone was feeling in a situation, which can lead us to wrongly assume people to be only flat characters. Don’t fall into that. At this point in the story Joseph was a young man full of dreams, and, probably a bit of pride, rockin some designer label threads his dad had given him. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt as a human, and especially as an adolescent, that he may have been a bit emotional in the situation. Bible characters are real people, too. When we begin to see this and try to process the human side of the drama, the Old Testament, which includes 39 of the Bible’s 66 books, becomes more accessible to us.
More important than how he dealt with his emotional wounds, is how the Bible tells us Joseph lived his life. As a slave we’re told in Genesis 39:2-6:
The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
Then, after being unjustly thrown in prison for a rape he did not commit, in Genesis 39:21-23:
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
Obviously, this was not the Edmond Dantes hell-bent on revenge version of the story. Joseph didn’t fill his days of captivity devising elaborate schemes, nor did he conversely lethargically lie and wallow in a justifiable pity party. He did work, son. Yes, the Lord showed him favor, but he wasn’t just sitting around enjoying being favored while his brothers were in the fields with the flocks… He utilized the Lord’s favor upon his hard work to bless those in his sphere of influence. He sought the Lord in his present, though far from ideal, circumstance. And the Lord blessed him and gave Joseph a glimpse of His steadfast love for him. Then, through a pretty crazy set of circumstances, Joseph ends up pretty much being made the Prime Minister of Egypt. I’m not joking, check it out for yourself in Genesis 40-41.
Are you currently living the ideal, dream-come-true version of your life? If so, are you being sure to give credit where it’s due and see the Lord’s favor in it? Also, would you be interested in switching lives? Kidding. Sort of…
Colossians 3:23-25: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
Joseph lived a beautiful example of this verse. Whatever we find ourselves doing in life, we are called to work hard at it, focusing on our service to the Lord, and trusting He will reward our hard work as well as deal with “the brothers” in our lives. The Lord gave us emotions, so be real with Him about how you’re feeling in your current circumstance, but don’t allow your feelings to keep you from the good work He has planned for you from before you were born (Ephesisans 2:10). Trust that no matter how dismal our situation may appear it in no way limits the incredible outcome the Lord can accomplish through our hard work done in His strength. He is sovereign over our circumstances, and Joseph credited his astronomic rise from slave to second in command of Egypt to the Lord.
The book of Genesis actually closes in chapter 50 with Joseph’s story coming full circle and his brothers bowed down before him seeking his forgiveness. (Didn’t see that coming? Check out Genesis 42-50 for the full story, it’s incredible). Instead of taking this moment to punish his brothers for their many sins against him, to point the finger (and I’m not saying which finger), or bring up his past dreams and rub their noses in the fulfillment they were witnessing, Joseph instead says, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones (Genesis 50:19-21).” He gives them the gift of grace– forgiveness and favor they definitely did not deserve.
Besides remembering the characters are real people, another way to deeply access the Old Testament is to look for the ways it points us to Jesus. Remember, God didn’t send Christ as Plan B when our obeying the ten commandments didn’t work out so well. Jesus’ life was also purposed from before time. In His story, we are the brothers that sold Him out. Jesus lived a life marked by self-sacrificing service to others despite being supreme potentate of the universe. We may not have been there to physically pound the spikes into His flesh, but do not doubt for one second that it was our sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. When we bow before our brother, Jesus, and seek forgiveness for the atrocities we continually commit toward Him and the people around us made in His image, like Joseph He forgives us. More than Joseph had the capacity to forgive because Christ is God. Though He was faced with great evil, God meant it for good, and Jesus hung there in shame before His astronomical rise to life, that many people should be kept alive in Him. That we don’t need to fear because He has told us He will provide us with everything we need. He has given us hope for our eternal future as well as an abundant life to be lived in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in today.
My airport dreams have seemed to come to a close. Recently, I dreamed I actually boarded a plane, though the dream moved on to something new before it landed. I remember there was a man on the plane and he was standing up in front (my dream-plane had theater seating) and he asked a question. I’m not sure what the question was, but in the dream I raised my hand, volunteering. The dream niggled at the back of my mind for days until I prayed and asked God if He would tell me what these dreams were about, if anything at all. I felt His answer, “For your encouragement.” Be encouraged, friends! He has such great plans to redeem our past, encourage us to endure the present, and promises us hope for the future. Let’s pursue Him with everything we’ve got so our doubting selves can be blown away as we stand awestruck at His work, and give Him all the credit.
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. … Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 15
Welcome to the abundant life, what’s your dream?