A dream: Barren mountain, lush valley

The dream:

I was anxiously making my way down the side of a mountain on foot with another man who seemed to be a mixture of my earthly and spiritual fathers. The mountain we were descending from was desert like, covered with rock, cactus and stumps. Not a single tree remained on the mountain, while the valley below was lush and inviting with green forest and clear streams. Though I could not see them from the rocky trail, I knew the valley to be filled with people, shelter, food, fellowship, etc. Conversely, the mountain I recognized as “snake country” (if I’ve never mentioned, I hate snakes!) stumpfernDespite my best efforts to convince my “father” to continue on to the valley, which we could have reached by nightfall, he decided instead to camp out on the mountain for the night. We unrolled our sleeping bags, even while I was objecting to it and the danger posed by snakes. My “father” laid out his sleeping bag next to an old rotting stump, from which a vine-like fern was growing and he began to eat the fern, which I thought was most unappetizing. Finally in response to my concerns about snakes, my “father” pulled a full size wall calendar from his pack and showed it to me. In the dream, I was aware it was the month of December, and the calendar was marked “snakes in hibernation” beginning in November. Upon seeing the calendar, I thought to myself “it’s the cold that sends them into hibernation but it’s unseasonably warm!” Consequently, I believed the signs of the times more so than the calendar. As we settled into our sleeping bags with our heads pointed up hill, I did seem to get over my concerns about snakes. We went to sleep.

End of dream.

The dream confused me for several reasons. The mountain was desert-like while the valley was lush and inviting. That seems opposite to me. I worried about snakes on the mountain, when typically they are not found at elevation; they prefer lower elevations where it is warmer and food is abundant. Again an opposite. I did not understand his point about hibernating snakes, when clearly, the weather defied the calendar. Nor did I understand him eating the vine-like fern.

A friend offered an intriguing interpretation. She observed that the “institutional church” has long been heralded as the “mountain of the Lord”, the most visible and presumed righteous representation of Christ’s Church on earth. When in truth, the “institutional church” has been in decline for many hundreds of years. The “IC” is devoid of the power of the Holy Spirit and bold faith of the early church; absent are healings, miracles, and deliverances that accompany those who believe. In reality, the “mountain of the Lord” known as the institutional church is barren, like the mountain in the dream. The shepherds of Ezekiel 34 feast on the gifts, offerings, and labors of the sheep, to keep their profitable religious business running.

Unlike the early Church who shared everything, needed nothing, practiced unity and sought the will of God in everything by prayer, the “IC” relies on the annual liturgical calendar to guide their celebrations, which hold to the remembrance of things past as if God is not active in the present. Year after year, the church celebrates the same holidays with the same scriptures, and is seemingly oblivious to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the “signs of the times”.

Contrasted in the dream is the man who appeared as my “spiritual father” on earth (i.e., ‘pastor’ or ‘shepherd’) who relies on the calendar to discern the time of year, while I was reading the signs around me which suggested we should be cautious. Despite the lush valley below, my earthly “spiritual father” could not resist stopping beside the trail to consume the sparse remaining resources on the “mountain of the Lord”.

As for the “vine-like fern”, the Lord says “I AM the vine” and so the vine-like fern would seem to be a false vine. Indeed, my “father” ate from and derived his sustenance not from the Lord, but by an unappetizing, even repulsive (to me) thing growing out of a dead stump.

Concerning the trees, all of which had been felled and only rotting stumps remained, Christ was crucified upon a “tree” (Acts 5:30, Acts 13:29-30). Thus upon the s0-called “mountain of the Lord” in my dream, man had cut down the cross of Christ and instead embraced a cross-less gospel. Where Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24), men have resisted taking up the cross for themselves, teaching instead a doctrine of prosperity; as if to say “Forget the cross, embrace the cash!”

Conversely, the valley below was lush with trees and I had the feeling there the people of God were equal and in that valley the people are servants of God and one another. In the valley, no one is building religious institutions for a man (“spiritual father” / “pastor”).

I am uncertain whether in the dream I was tasked by the Lord to escort my earthly spiritual ‘father’ from the mountain of the institutional church, or whether it was something I attempted to do on my own.

In reflecting on the dream, if indeed it exposes my desire to save everyone and frustrations with my “father” who refused to press onward, I wish I had simply left him there because a barren mountain infested with snakes is no place to spend the night. Surely I abdicated my own choice in the matter to my earthly ‘spiritual father’, rather than exercise my own spiritual authority as a son and priest before God in Christ and elect to continue the descent by myself. By yielding my head (mind / will) to this “father”, I limited my progress toward the lush valley below and placed myself in mortal danger.

Perhaps that is the most important message for me: step into my inheritance and identity and leave the straggler(s) to their fate in the Lord.