I woke up this morning after a vivid dream that I’d gone back to my former church. Apparently in the dream I was working a different job and two different people from other churches had come into my workplace and asked directions to the church. I gave them to them, amused that they didn’t realize I used to attend, even though I was dressed just like them.
For whatever reason, I knew they’d be serving a meal that night before church so I decided to sneak in just to eat. Most everyone had eaten by the time I arrived. They asked me to help serve dessert, not recognizing me. So I did. The entire building was different in the dream, but several things were the same. As people started to realize who I was, I could sense their fear. The unasked question was, “Did you ask the pastor if you could come?”
They’d shy away from me, afraid to acknowledge me or meet my eyes once they recognized me. And yet there was a little hesitant hope in their eyes that I’d “pray through”. Then the pastor came in. Things were tense- would he recognize me? If so, he’d be furious that I’d come. I left at that point, satisfied I’d gotten my answer, and that nothing had changed. I walked the long way back to the car, watching the parking lot fill and people rush in, hurried and focused on that building. I walked, enjoying a starless night, at peace.
I haven’t been looking for any answers. I know what would happen if I tried to go back or attend anything they led. But it was odd. The fear and tension were thick. I wasn’t afraid, but they were. And they weren’t afraid of God or afraid for me, they were afraid the pastor would find out. They were afraid of his anger and his temper on themselves for not saying anything if they knew I was there without permission. Afraid he’d think they had something to do with me being there.
And in the dream I knew the reason I wouldn’t go back even to visit- a totally unbiblical attitude toward the pastor and the pastor’s expectation that someone who’d left had to call and ask permission to return. (There is a rule at church that if you leave, you must ask special permission to even come to a wedding or funeral.) It had to do with his temper and the anger that he expressed so often, that tension in the air, the fear that he’d blame someone for wrongdoing when they’d simply been kind, gentle or compassionate.
It was strange. The dream didn’t make me sad or angry, it was just there. But it was strange because the fear, the tense caution, and the rules on returning were so clear and solid in an otherwise wispy dream. It’s the first time that I’ve dreamed about church in years that I felt a calm reassurance when I woke up.