Some of you know that I have this deal with God about angels and visions and such things. Most of the time God keeps God’s end of the deal. I agree to firmly believe that angels and visions are real and God agrees to communicate with me when I dream so that I can say, “It was just a dream.” As I said, God usually keeps the bargain and last night was one of those times when I dreamed of being in God’s presence.
As is typical for me, I found myself on a deserted stretch of beach early in the morning. Only a hint of sunrise tinted the dark horizon red. Out of the darkness, a voice said, “I really wish you wouldn’t resist so much.” In the dream, I knew exactly what the person was talking about.
“Well,” I said after brief reflection, “I really wish you wouldn’t make it so hard.”
Laughter mingled with the cries of the gulls. “I’m rather used to all night wrestling matches and I don’t get to engage in them as often as I once did.”
“So why are you complaining about my resistance? I don’t particularly enjoy wrestling with you. It’s exhausting and you have a way of getting what you want, anyway.”
More laughter. “If you know I get what I want, then why struggle so much?”
I’m a bit exasperated at this point. “Because I don’t always recognize it’s you I’m wrestling with and then I don’t always know what you want. If you could be a little more clear…”
There’s silence as the deep crimson line of sunrise expands. Then the voice whose presence I can feel but cannot see says, “I’m as clear as I can be. We both know that my ways are not your ways.”
“Your mistake,” I say. “You could have made it easier on yourself if you had made it so that human ways were holy ways.”
“True. But how hideously boring for all of us!” I heard the smile.
“So, why did you keep me up all night this time?”
Silence mingles with the fading night as orange tints spill into the red and gulls call out their morning greetings.
“I have something I want to write on your heart.”
“Seriously? No wonder I was wrestling with you. Can’t you just tell me since we’re talking now? Instead of, you know, scribbling something on my heart.”
Laughter swells with the waves rolling onto the shore. “You couldn’t hear me if I said it ten thousand times. It needs to be written on your heart so you can find it in the silence after the storms or when despair has a grip on you or when you feel completely lost. I have to write the word I have for you on your heart so you will always know where to find it.”
“Crap.” I take a breath of salt air into my lungs and hold it for a moment. As I let it out, I recognize the truth in what I’ve been told. The word really does need to be written on my heart. I take another long, slow breath before I consent. “Okay, then. Will it hurt?”
“Probably, it’ll hurt often and for as long as you have breath.”
“Wait!” I say with force. “Are you telling me that this is like what you did to Jacob? He limped for the rest of his life and I’m guessing everyone knew why.”
Quiet laughter, like a gentle breeze, floated around me. “Well, I suppose it’ll kind of be like that. You won’t limp, exactly. You might not notice any difference since the word I’m going to write on your heart has been in it since before you were born. Others will see it, too, and they’ll know that you have spent time with me.”
“You know I’m not a fan of this mystery-type stuff.”
“I know. You’re a bigger fan than you allow yourself to acknowledge.”
“Maybe, but I’m okay with that.” I turned away from the beauty of the sunrise to face the direction I thought the voice was coming from. “So are you going to do this thing? Write a word on my heart?”
From a distance that could have been inside or outside of me, I heard more laughter which was strangely soothing. It was as if the owner of the voice took great delight in spending time with me. Mixed in with the laughter came the assurance, “I already have.”
The sun was up over the horizon now and the bright, fiery hues of sunrise were giving way to blue sky. I stood on the waters’ edge, feeling the coolness on my toes, and looked down into my heart. And, sure enough, there was a word there. Yet, as the light changed, the world appeared to be different. I watched this for a while. Compassion became love became kindness became grace became forgiveness became hope became joy… an unending turning of goodness was written on my heart. All I had to do was be still and I would notice. And then when I am active, others will notice.
I woke up still smelling the salt air and sure that God’s word is engraved on my heart.
RCL – Year C – Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost – October 16, 2016
Jeremiah 31:27-34 with Psalm 119:97-104 or
Genesis 32:22-31 with Psalm 121 and
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 and