God is in constant communication with our souls. Our souls are constantly responding. This conversation does not require your effort or intention or permission. Usually it's beyond our awareness. Often, it's like a presence at the edge of our peripheral vision. Or a faint whisper or melody almost but not quite beyond our hearing. What we do become aware of is not always to our liking. We may dismiss, ignore, or otherwise resist it.
Only don’t be like the young girl in my middle school biology class who could not find her pulse and concluded, fearfully, that she must be dead!
Everyone dreams. Not everyone remembers their dreams. Having no memory of your dreams does not prove you do not dream. Dreaming is a vital, necessary part of human life! So is this constant prayer and communication between God and your soul. The fact that you live is the only proof required.
Prayer will be the focus for adult learning when we reconvene on Sunday, September 19. I hope it will be a conversation that trains the ears of our hearts to hear the true conversation. The one in which “the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8). I’m excited, because my experience of Zion is that it’s a congregation of people who have experienced this holy conversation and caught glimpses of their hidden life.
Great love and great suffering tend to be the only realities powerful enough to wake us up to this conversation within us. Love and suffering interrupt our compulsive filters and busy chatter and pat answers. They insist and persist in inviting us inward--into silence, solitude, and stillness. Into the spacious beauty of our very souls, which at first can be a disorienting, even terrifying, experience.
For a definition of “soul,” consider the life that St. Paul’s students talked about in Colossians 3: “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” No matter who we think we are or what life we think we are living, our truer selves beckon. A fuller life wants to live in us.
“That’s not me” or “Who would want that?” are common first reactions. Along with “I don’t have time for this,” “What’s the point?” “This is boring.” We’re all Jonah in our own way, tempted to go anywhere but where the God-conversation is happening.
Speaking of dreams, I was finally persuaded after some resistance to pay closer attention to my dreams. As a prayer practice. In the bible, God visits humans via their dreams. Like in Joseph’s dreams before and after Jesus was born. But to write down my dreams each morning? This seemed like a waste of my time until recently.
Dreams may seem nonsensical, embarrassing, or like a meaningless regurgitation of memories old and new. But the very fact that they are out of our control is why they’re powerful. We can forget them--and forgetting is a choice, even if a passive one--but we cannot author our dreams.
So also our lives that are hidden with Christ in God. The myth of the self-made man (or woman) falls apart in light of the biblical creation story. All the more, Christ’s new creation (resurrection) story.
This is the problem when it comes to dreams and souls and prayer: Your will be done as long as I’m still in control. Objectively and historically, Christians are no better at surrendering control than anyone else. We may in fact be worse than most!
Leave it to a Sufi Muslim mystic to pen a poem that so well describes the surrender and radical hospitality that a life of prayer invites.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes As an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
—Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Be grateful for whoever comes. Ha!
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith