Last week during a prayer ministry meeting our leader, Kelly, shared a vivid dream Jesus had given her. In the dream she was preparing to teach, studying her Bible, making her notes, outlining her points. Then the Holy Spirit asked her to draw a line down the middle of her page, dividing it left from right. Leave the right side blank, counseled the Spirit. Make your notes and outline on the left side. The revelations I give you along the way, record on the right. She complied and filled the page with Scripture references and talking points founded on Biblical truths. When the Spirit revealed something fresh or highlighted what He wanted to say, she documented it on the right side. Finally the page was filled and the work complete. Then the Spirit told her to take her paper and tear it down the middle, dividing the right and left sides. He tossed the left side away and handed her what remained. This, He referenced the half-sheet He had spoken to her during her studies, this bears fruit.
I do not expect this dream needs interpretation. I do believe it has extensive implications for the people of God. Our hope and prayer would be that all teachers who present the Word of God to others would follow identical principles. As a fellow follower of Christ and minister of His teachings I’m afraid that is simply not true. We are also of flesh; we who prioritize and “professionally” practice ministry are prone to working out of our own capacities for understanding and application. We teach according to what we think and what we know, which is astonishingly insufficient if we consider the Spirit of God wants to teach according to what He knows. He knows the full extent of the truth, and He knows the precise needs of the audience at hand. Only He can properly extract and effectively convey what is necessary.
So let’s ask ourselves some tough-love type of questions. These are questions for me, not just you. Perhaps this is more of a challenge, because I hope we’ll take it to heart. Take it to Jesus in our hearts.
How does the piece of paper in my friend’s dream represent your life? You have several decades on earth afforded to you, shaped by the respective time, place, family, society you live in. You didn’t get to decide much of what defines the unique you; you were assigned a specific era, gender, ethnicity, personality. You are you, whatever you do with yourself. With the freedom of that broad, blank page, you make decisions that fill in the spaces. When external influences (people, systems, nature, etc) make a mark on your page, you still have to decide what to do from there. What will be the story that surrounds those things? How will you respond?
But really, in the postmodern West most of us retain a degree of autonomy shocking to the rest of the world and history. We have endless freedom to choose how we will live out our days, what studies we will pursue, what work we will engage in, how we will spend our time/energy/money, whom we will live with, what sounds appetizing to eat, even which games we desire to play. I think when we begin to understand the extent of our freedom we recognize the weight of responsibility it carries, and that can twinge a bit of terror in our hearts. Further, when we see what all the western world has invaded our freedom with, we could be quickly overwhelmed by the clamor of voices competing for our attention, resources, lives.
So how do you fill your page? How do you outline your life? What are the main points you want to hit? The western middle class outline is fairly typical: childhood – adolescence – university – career – family – hobbies – retirement. These are the ways people know us. For some reason they are what communicate our personal value according to a long-evolving system of overcoming, overpowering, overdoing, and overindulging. What selections we honor with a place on our page are destined to bring us ongoing honor or shame. Or sometimes we try to cut them out and pretend they never had a place there, only to mangle our own life. What is on your page? How much margin is there around it? How many words or images reflect your truest values? How much tells the story of Jesus?
Did you ever divide your page in half, so the Spirit has freedom to fill in blank space in your life? Did you even give him a Sabbath seventh to pour goodness, joy, and restoration into your soul? Did you ever surrender your tiny tithing tenth to cut you loose from trust in money and let Him care for the needs of others? Where is He permitted to make His mark? Do you trust Him to Author, to Illustrate, to Illuminate?
What if, when the Spirit shows up and tears off the portion of paper He was allowed to write on, tosses away the temporal excess, and holds out His segment to you He says, “This bears fruit. This will last. Your investment was so worthy; come enjoy the return. You’ll never see the end of what I’m doing with it.”
How much of your life is represented on that piece that is removed? How much of all you worked so hard on, spent your actual life on, will fall away and never be thought of again? Do you feel grieved? Amazed? Cheated? Humbled? Exploited? Relieved? Ashamed? Expectant?
Just for this moment, I want you to really feel it. What if 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is actually true?
How do you feel? And what do you think? Is God unfair? Is the world’s system unfair? Have you been robbed of opportunity to know the truth and be set free? Have you squandered the truth and remained captive to false gods? Captive to yourself? Have you embraced the truth of all Jesus is, and lived free?
Like you, it takes effort for me to stubbornly guard a space in time and uninterrupted exchange with Jesus to address the deepest, most critical issues. But what if just now you had a chat with Him about this? Please let me encourage you: this question is not to guilt you into doing more. You do not have to earn His favor. He is so delighted in His masterpiece of you, He has no desire for you to lose your mind or make unnecessary sacrifices trying to make Him happy. But He loves you so much that He is most delighted to fashion the most magnificent you. The you that turns out to be more than you asked for or imagined. He wants to fill your page with wonder, wants it as clear as possible of unnecessary pain, wants it free of sin’s treacherous greed to gobble up the space in one way or another. He wants to fill it with the evidence of His presence, with the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5). You do not have to strive for a single moment. Do not scramble to make a page look like one that honors Jesus. Just give Him the space to make His marks.
I also want to warn you about over-filling your page with all sorts of amazing-looking things Jesus really loves. Remember what my teacher at the beginning was writing out? It was Bible teaching. Leading women into deeper fellowship with Jesus through prayer. Her work was out of love and honor for Him, but it still contained an excess of her work. That probably describes my early years, with the wildly flailing passion: I love Him! I’ll do it all! I’ll go everywhere He goes and do everything He does. It’s so amazing to follow Jesus and partner with Him!
I love Him for inviting us to go with Him, to be with Him, to abide in Him and rule over our little corners of creation with Him. But oh, beloved. Even in your passion for Him, leave the page blank for Him. When He says go, go. When He says rest, rest. When He says heal, heal. When He says give, give. When He says rejoice, rejoice. When He says mourn, mourn. When He says wait and hope, wait and hope. Just give Him the freedom to dictate your page. It is the very essence of your freedom.
If you discover that your life’s page tells a different story than you really want it to, or is cluttered with a thousand distractions, or is so obscured by sin that the in-His-image-goodness-of-you can’t even be recognized, tell Jesus about it. Ask Him what to do, what to stop doing. Ask Him to rescue you, to help your unbelief. Follow Him to freedom.
Now this is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith. -1 John 5:4b