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Gospel dreamin’ leads to questions

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Here at the newspaper we never know what kind of conversation we’ll have when the phone rings.
Recently, as I picked up the phone a woman blurted out, “Do you believe God talks to you through your dreams?”
My first thought: Is this a trick question? Does she believe it or does she believe it’s hocus pocus hooey balooey?
My second thought: I hope she didn’t dream that God wants her to run me over with a forklift.
I took a breath and took a chance and told her that yes, I actually do believe God talks to people through their dreams, that there are plenty of examples in the Bible and that I believe he sometimes talks to me through my dreams, too.
(Although the one where Jesus had Hugh Laurie’s face — Dr. Gregory House on “House” — and was eating a bag of potato chips is still up for interpretation.)
The caller said she had had a troubling dream and wanted to tell me about it, hoping that I might be able to help her figure out its message.
To set the dream up, she said she had recently listened to a teaching from the Book of Revelation where Jesus tells the church at Ephesus that they have “left their first love.”
As for her dream, here’s the gist of it:
She had left her husband, her “first love,” to go on a trip with another man. They were in a car, driving to a vacation place. I think she said Nashville.
“We were happy and laughing and having a great time, but the closer we got, the more unsettled I became,” she said.
When they arrived, she knew she couldn’t go through with it.
“But I also knew just going that far was too far,” she said. “I had hurt my husband — and I was so, so sorry.”
She paused and said, “This never happened in real life — I love my husband. But this dream was so real, scary real.”
In her dream she looked around and wondered how she had gotten there and she wanted to go home, but she was afraid it was too late.
“I told the man, ‘I have to go back,’ but I didn’t know how. And then I woke up,” she said. “What do you think it means?”
I told her the truth, that I had no idea. Dreams are personal, and I would hate to say it means one thing when God may have meant something else. I told her to pray and ask God to explain it. Maybe she’d have another dream with the answer.
After we hung up, I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation, beginning with Jesus’ words to the church: “I have this one thing against you. You do not love me as you did at first” (Revelation 2:4, New Life Version).
I thought about the words of the hymn that play on a continuous loop in my brain: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the one I love.”
I am acutely aware of my propensity to leave Jesus as my first love and of not knowing how to get back.
However, rather than despair, I thought about some other words of Jesus, his story of the wayward son who wanted to go home, but was afraid his father wouldn’t take him back, and of the son’s utter surprise when he saw his father from far away running to greet him and eager to welcome him home.
But what if the story was not about a son but about a wayward wife returning to her first love — the husband she left? Would the story end differently?
Maybe in real life it would, but not when it comes to God as the jilted husband. God would run to greet his unfaithful wife and would never hold her leaving against her as a human husband might. He would forgive without strings attached. He would take her out to dinner and shopping or maybe they’d go to the beach or watch movies together on the couch.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,” is the song that we all sing. We are all wayward wives, leaving the One we love to travel with another lover.
But the good news is, we never, ever have to be afraid to return. In Christ, there’s no condemnation, only forgiveness and mercy for those who want it.
That’s not a dream either. That’s grace.   
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.