A dream can catch you by surprise. It usually comes in a way you never expected and as something you never imagined. With Mary in the Gospel narratives, it came in a word, or a group of words. And, the first among them was an affirmation – “The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28)
Each time I read this story of the dream-delivering angel visiting Mary I sense some of the shock that she must have felt. By this point in time Mary must have been moving simply and rather normally ahead in life, minding her own business, doing what all good Jewish girls did, getting ready to be married, getting ready to watch one of her childhood dreams come true, a wedding; when, BAM, right out of the blue an angel startles her soul with one word – “Greetings!”
Hmmm … “Greetings!” That sounds like the word that military draft letters from Uncle Sam begin with … “Greetings…”? Such warm salutations are often followed by sobering expectations.
From all appearances, Mary’s life was moving ahead and steadily progressing. By all accounts she seems to have been raised in a fine family with God-fearing parents – her own faith evidenced that. And, like most young women her age, Mary was preparing to launch into life, her life. All her plans were moving ahead probably much as she had hoped. She had been courted and won by a respected suitor (Joseph), a carpenter. Her father must have been delighted to have her marrying a carpenter, for his was a trade in constant demand. His work would keep him close to home and would provide for her needs. The plans for their marriage and their lives together were certainly coming together. I imagine they had already decided where they would live. The dimensions of their hopes and dreams were probably falling into quite pleasant places.
Then … God showed up.
God came in a way Mary never would have expected. And, with his first word – “Greetings” – her life was forever changed. When the angel said “Greetings”, in essence it was God saying “hello!” And when God said “hello” to Mary, it meant that she would have to say “good-bye” to several things. In order for her to say “hello” to God’s will, Mary would soon have to say . . .
. . . “Good-bye” to her own ideas of what her future would hold.
. . . “Good-bye” to being the master of her own destiny.
. . . “Good-bye” to many things familiar and comfortable.
. . . “Good-bye” to controlling the thoughts and opinions people would have of her. You see, that’s what dreams do. They will greet you and, then, they will require something of you. They bring a great big “hello” into your life; but they also will require several “good-byes.”
Mary certainly must have had her breath taken away when she looked up and saw an angel with a God-sized voice saying, “Greetings!” I mean, wouldn’t you? But as the shock filled her soul, did you notice what the angel said next?
“The Lord is with you!”
Ahh – that must have been so good for her to hear. Wouldn’t you love to have an angel speak those words over your soul – “The Lord is with you”?
What a reassurance it must have been … just to hear those words; and especially at such a moment as this. A completely unexpected invasion from heaven into her life must have placed her emotions somewhere between outright fear and utter shock. Could you imagine a more comforting sentence? . . . Coming from the messenger of God straight to you?
“The Lord is with you!”
Is there any truth more precious to a soul than this one? Could anything possibly be more affirming?
Unfortunately, among the DreamKillers in our lives are the false notions we have about God, about the way he sees us and even the way he feels about us. Sometimes we “hear” other words, words in our minds, words that play in our memories, words that wear on our souls, words God has never said, words such as . . .
“The Lord is against you!”
“The Lord is far away from you!”
“The Lord is overlooking you!”
Have you ever heard those words?
“The Lord is against you!” Have you felt this one recently? It is one of the favorite scripts of the enemy of our souls, … you know, that ole’ DreamKiller himself. If he can cause you to question how God feels about you, then he can begin to dismantle the dream … and your confidence and peace along with it, as well. Unless you believe that God is for you and with you, you will struggle to even believe that the dream in your soul is a gift from him. And a distorted view of God discourages your faith.
“The Lord is far away from you!” Have you heard that one whispered in your mind before? The DreamKiller also knows that if God is distant in your thinking, than the dream will be distant, as well. If God is out of reach, so will be the dream he has given you. He will try hard to get you to believe the lie that God is far away from you.
Often after receiving a dream from God we find ourselves sensing that it is far away, distant, removed … and out of reach. If we take a closer look, however, we will often find that the reason the dream seems so far away is because we have allowed our view of God to be the same. Instead of seeing Jesus as our closest “friend” (John 15:17) and confidant, we view him as a distant deity. Without intending to do so, we become virtual agnostics. God is more there than here in our thinking. He is more often removed from the scene of our lives than present – at least in our thinking. This is dangerous and defeating. The most tragic thing that a distant view of God does is … it diminishes your faith.
“The Lord is overlooking you!” Have you felt that way before? Recently? Even right now? Perhaps the toughest knot to get unwound in our souls is self-pity. This happens when we have our eyes more on what God is doing for others than we have them on God himself. We are more riveted upon our circumstances than on his character. When the God-given dream seems delayed in our minds, we are instantly tempted to look at others who seem to be experiencing “dreams come true.” And, as we make the mistake of comparing ourselves (and our stories) to others, discouragement rushes in and diminishes our hopes. And a doubtful view of God destroys our faith.
The News Release
Dreams are important; that’s for sure. A God-given dream is significant in his eyes … and should be in ours, as well. And yet, there is something more important to him than the dream he wants to fulfill through my life and yours. It is so important that it was the first “news release” the angel proclaimed to Mary that day. No, the first order of business was not the dream, or the vision, or even the plan God was revealing. The first thing out of the angel’s mouth after he said “hello” was not about an assignment or new mission; it was about a relationship. Not Mary’s responsibility to the world, but God relationship with her. Before he called upon her to do anything, he first wanted to remind her that he was with her. That in itself is miraculous. That alone is a dream come true, is it not?
“The Lord is with you!”
On this day, before the dream would take its first breath . . . Mary needed to know this: A God-given dream can be shocking … and surprising. But there is one thing much more amazing . . . the God of dreams and visions wants to share in a relationship with you. This is the greatest dream of all.
There is only one thing better than a God-given dream; that is knowing the Dream-giving God. Before announcing that God was coming to dwell among the people of the world through the Incarnation, the angel reminded Mary that he was already present with her. She needed to be reminded.
So do I.
So do you.