Recipe for misery: Dream up problems.

“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain? (Jeremiah 23:28)”

Some people are so frustrated when nothing bad is happening around them that they manufacture it out of nothing.

They dream up trouble.

I don’t normally remember dreams, but this one I did.

A few weeks ago, I took an afternoon nap of nearly three hours. That week, I’d been attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, some six hours away. After driving there Sunday and returning home Wednesday, in between, I had sketched nonstop for some 25 hours total and was worn to a frazzle.

In the dream, Margaret and I were adults riding the school bus home for some reason.  As the driver stopped in front of our house, Margaret got off while I busily set about gathering up all our packages. I told the driver I’d be just a minute.  As he pulled away, I called to say I was still on board and that I had asked him to give me a second. He said, “I didn’t hear you,” and  added that it was now against the rules for him to stop the bus and let me out.

That’s how I ended up riding with him back to the bus barn. While there–remember, this is just a dream–some employees of the school system came outside to inform me that they were entitled to “one-tenth” of the money I was supposed to fork over for my release.

I awakened with a strong sense of the unfairness of this system, feeling that someone needed to get in touch with the school board members because surely drivers are allowed to let people off at unscheduled stops. Besides, employees are not allowed to scam their captured riders.

“It’s just a dream,” I kept saying until the frustration dissipated.

That was so silly. “Where did it come from,” I wondered.

If dreams have meanings–and as a rule I do not believe they do, rather that they are stitched together from the scraps of  yesterday’s activities and thoughts–then interpreting that one would challenge the Bible’s dream specialists Joseph and Daniel.

On the other hand….

Suppose I carried that anger with me into the rest of my day. Suppose I met a school bus driver or employee of the local schoolboard and was angry for no reason that made sense to them, based solely on what I had dreamed.

You would conclude that I was suffering from bad mental health. And you would be right.

I know people who do something similar.

I’ve seen church members dream up reasons to be angry with pastors and other members…

1) Someone takes offense at something they’re not quite sure about.

Did the pastor say something rude to that woman?  Of course, I didn’t hear all that was said.

Didn’t the pastor turn away and refuse to shake that man’s hand? Or did he not notice the man was standing there?

2) The member who sees a slight when none was given or intended.

Bad mental health causes some people to pull out past experiences and post-mortem them to death until he/she finds reasons to take offense.  A neurotic personality can put a negative spin on everything, no matter how benign.

3) The person who finds a negative interpretation for a positive statement.

He said I looked good in this suit, but I know what he was thinking. She said that was a good sermon I preached, but did you see the way her husband looked when she said that?

4) Someone who misinterprets or twists a well-intentioned act.

At the traffic light, I was second in line. Just as the light was about to change–I could see the caution light for the cross traffic–a vagrant was staggering toward the crosswalk in front of us and was about to step into the traffic. Without thinking, I blew my horn to alert him.

The problem is the driver in front thought I was honking at him. He leaned out of his window and yelled something profane.  I called back, “Sir, I wasn’t blowing at you. I was trying to tell that man not to step into traffic in front of us.”  That did not satisfy the motorist, however. He continued yelling and shaking his fist as he pulled away.

I was immensely embarrassed by the little scene as it took place only a few blocks from the church I pastored.  (Pastors are always concerned that their actions may negatively reflect on the church or their Lord.)

Of course, I wish I’d never tooted the horn. And, since there is no way to direct a horn’s blare, it was impossible to aim it at the pedestrian but not at the driver. Perhaps had I been that driver, I’d have been perturbed also. But it makes our point here, that some people seem to go out of their way to be offended at something not intended for them.

5) The church member who regurgitates yesterday’s conversation with a church leader, chews it all over again, and discovers something distasteful about it.  He calls the pastor and begins the conversation with, “Preacher, what did you mean yesterday when you said…..?”

The poor pastor talked to so many people yesterday he barely remembers conversing with the man, and certainly not the specific words. But the caller remembers every detail and has found something in that conversation over which he now takes offense.

There is a cure for this, of course.

1) We could decide to love one another.

“Love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own; is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered” (I Corinthians 13:5).

Love does not take offense, some translations read.  The people I love most–I’m thinking of family and select friends–I trust. And if one seems to say something “out of the way” to me, my reaction would be to ask what they had said or what they meant. What I would not do–not in a million years–is sit around mulling over it, working myself into a lather.

Love trusts, accepts, and shrugs off.

2) We could try ignoring slights and barbs.

It’s quite a skill, this art of hearing something ugly aimed your way and ignoring it, of taking the arrows shot your way and letting them bounce off.  But it’s a skill God can give.

He said to Jeremiah, “Now, behold, I have made you today as a fortified city, and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land…. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you; for I am with you to deliver you….” (Jeremiah 1:18-19)

Do you know what happens when someone throws a rock against a bronze wall? It bounces off.

That’s God’s plan for us.

3) We could find out what real persecution feels like.

A quick cure-all for our tendency to dream up slights and put-downs would be to become the brunt of some real, old-fashioned, down-to-earth persecution.

God’s people who live in hostile cultures, where to speak up for Jesus means putting your life on the line, do not sit around rehashing yesterday’s conversation in search of something offensive, something to take umbrage over. Nothing clears the air like knowing someone is roaming your neighborhood looking for ways to “devour” you (I Peter 5:8).

4) Or, we could grow up.

The best approach, of course, is for us to mature in Christ. “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

And, quit dreaming up stuff!! (smiley face goes here)






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