I Had a Dream
On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech that many refer to as the “I Have a Dream” speech. Many have marveled at the poetic flow of his words. The words themselves are very inspirational, but his delivery of those words expresses the passion he felt in his heart. He made each of those words so very real.
But Dr. King’s words weren’t really a dream, like you have in the middle of the night. Instead, Dr. King expressed a vision, a hope if you will. He saw the potential of improved racial relations in America. He did not flee from the injustices he witnessed, for his speech contains many references to those injustices. Instead, he paints a picture, or a dream, for all of us to become a part of.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, we all have dreams. Sometimes our dreams seem to be just as real as Dr. King visualized his dream to be. Sometimes our dreams motivate us. Sometimes they scare us. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are sad. Sometimes they make us feel better. Sometime they make us feel worse. Sometimes they are just weird and confusing.
The other night I had one of those weird and confusing type of dreams. In my dream, I was in a foreign country, like somewhere in the Mideast or Asia. That in itself is a little weird because I have only been out of the United States to visit Canada and the Bahamas. In my dream, I was in a car sitting outside something like a train or bus station. I remember it being a very dirty, rundown place. It was also very crowded.
I sat in the car with another gentleman. He was wearing a dirty white middle eastern outfit. He seemed to have some kind of learning disability, which seemed to cause him to listen very carefully to every word I muttered. His arm laid across the car’s window edge. He was holding a ten dollar bill and two one dollar bills in his hand, which could be seen by the crowd.
The twelve dollars seemed to be a signal to someone we were waiting for. We didn’t know who it was we were looking for, or even what they looked like. It was a very scary place and I was really hoping this person would show up so we could get out of there quickly.
Being really nervous, I was scanning the area very intently. My eyes never rested in one spot for any length of time. I was really afraid someone was going to hurt us. The man in the car with me was not paying a bit of attention to our surroundings. Instead, this man was watching me. It seemed the motion of my head and eyes fascinated him. This made me even more nervous because I knew it would be a lot better if both of us were on the lookout for the person we were trying to find.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, popped this very scary looking homeless type person. He was very close to us and was heading in our direction very quickly. I just couldn’t believe he was the one we were looking for. He seemed more intent on either robbing us or hurting us. After all, he probably saw my companion waving the money through the car window.
The scary man went to reach for the car door handle where my companion was sitting. I yelled at my companion to lock the door quickly. I shouted at the top of my lungs. I turned to see who won the race and at that exact moment, my alarm clock went off.
I don’t know what happened. You can’t make yourself have the same dream again. You can’t say, “Oh, I’ll just make myself pick up the dream where it left off.” It doesn’t work that way. So I was left to wonder how my dream actually turned out or what it meant, if anything.
I’m sure our Presidents are like the rest of us. They go to bed each night and fall asleep most of the time. With all those nights, I’m sure there have been many times they have had very strange dreams. I’m sure, like Dr. King and myself, some of those dreams got cut short and their ending results were never fully realized by the dreamer.
This President would be one of those who experienced a similar situation as I did with my dream. The President would begin by telling the story of his encounter, according to Ward Hill Lamon, by saying: “I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream.” He then began to tell of his dream.
He was one of our war Presidents. Like most Presidents, his heart struggled with having to send so many young men, just out of childhood and with so much life in front of them, into harm’s way. But he loved our country and he understood, all too well, that freedom and liberty sometimes have to be defended or they won’t be around long.
His army far outnumbered the enemy, but they just couldn’t seem to defeat that enemy. His generals didn’t seem to have the same passion for victory that he did. They loved to march around and get ready, but combat seemed to be something that they wanted to shy away from. It’s hard to win a war if you don’t fight the battles.
The President went through general after general. He didn’t know it at the time, but the leader of the other side was going through the exact same thing. The enemy’s leader was also having a hard time getting his generals to fight, too.
It’s a little weird if you think about it, but it is possible that the war could have ended a lot quicker, or the outcome could have had a completely opposite result, if one side or the other had decided to go all out and attack the other side. But that’s not what happened. The war dragged on.
As the war dragged on, and the deaths mounted, some of the President’s citizens started criticizing him. They wanted him to give up on the efforts and just let the two sides go their own separate ways. He saw things totally differently. It was a matter of principle and he was never willing to abandon those principles.
The President’s determination paid off. He found some generals who were willing to fight. Those generals motivated their soldiers and soon they had the enemy on the run. It was a stubborn enemy, but at least there were some positive signs that the war might be changing direction.
Then a few more breaks came and the worn down enemy was in retreat. Then the enemy’s capital fell. The President would even visit the former enemy’s capital. It was two days before he entered the enemy’s capital that the President had his dream. Then, just five days after he entered the capital, the enemy formally surrendered.
From the early pages of the Bible we hear tales of man and sleep. You only need to ramble through a few verses until God puts Adam in a deep sleep. Adam awakens and there is this beautiful babe next to him. Yes, the Bible has many tales of the good and the bad things that happen when a man falls asleep.
One of the most referred to effects of that sleep is dreaming. God spoke to people like Samuel, John, pharaohs, kings, prophets, and others through dreams. People like Joseph, Daniel and others would sometimes interpret the dreams of others.
There is one of those dreams, which is mentioned in the Bible, that The Message calls “a real nightmare.” The Message goes on the say the dreamer was “disturbed,” “agitated,” and “shocked.” To me, the dream seems a lot like mine, weird and confusing.
In this dream, there was a great storm. The winds were so strong and coming from four directions. Of course, these winds caused great waves to stir up in the sea. Through those rough seas there appeared four very scary creatures.
The first creature was like a lion, except it had wings like an eagle. As the dreamer watched, the wings were plucked from the creature. The creature was then standing up on two feet like a man. Then almost out of nowhere, a human heart was placed inside the creature.
The second creature was like a bear. You could see the hunger in its eyes because it had three ribs hanging from its jaw. Out of nowhere a voice commands the beast, “Arise, devour much flesh!”
The third creature was a commanding presence, a real leader. It looked like a leopard, but it had four bird wings running down its back. The animal also had four heads.
The fourth creature was even scarier that the other three. It had large iron teeth that made it easy to crush anything in its path. It had ten horns on its head. Then another horn sprouted up. Three horns were pulled out to make room for the new horn. This new horn had human eyes and spoke.
The dreamer then sees some thrones. An older man appears on one of the thrones. This older man has a robe as white as snow and hair that is white like wool. He seems to be the ultimate judge. The four creatures really don’t seem to have any power, except that which the old man has given them. The old man also seems to have given the creatures a limited lifetime.
As if this isn’t strange enough, a cloud moves in and a man, called the Son of Man, is riding it. The old man gives this man the power over everything.
President Abraham Lincoln describes his dream. He explained that he was standing just as still as a corpse. He heard many sobs, like there were a number of people crying. He walked down the hall and looked into every room and no one was in any of the rooms. All the lights were on in the rooms and he recognized all the objects in the rooms, but he could find no people.
He kept on walking down the hall determined to find out where all the crying was coming from. He arrived at the East Room of the White House and entered the room. There in the middle of the room rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. The corpse was laying on a catafalque.
Next to the corpse were soldiers, acting as guards. There was a line of people standing there waiting to view the corpse. Their faces were covered, but there was no mistaking the fact that they were crying uncontrollably.
In his dream, Lincoln turned toward one of the soldiers and asked, “Who is dead in the White House?” The soldier answered, “The President, he was killed by an assassin.” On hearing this the crowd burst into loud wailing. On the crowd’s loud burst, Lincoln awoke from his dream.
Lincoln would go on to say he was really bothered by the dream, “…but it was only a dream.”
On Saturday, April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s lifeless body would lay in state in the East Room of the White House. Honor guards carried it there after he died following his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. Many sad people filed past it to view his body. It was just days after Lee surrendered to Grant ending the Civil War. It was also less than two weeks after he had his death dream.
Ironically, Lincoln was the first President to be assassinated. Before Lincoln died in office, only two other Presidents had died in office. William Henry Harrison had died in office, but that was from pneumonia. Zachary Taylor also died in office, but that, many believe, was from the effects of some bad cherries he ate and some bad milk he drank. So, up until this point in our nation’s history, we had not yet felt the pain of having our leader assassinated.
Daniel tells the story of his dream in Daniel 7. He was confused by all the creatures and the people in his dream. So, while he was in his dream, he asked one of the people standing near him in the dream, “What does all this mean?”
The person tells Daniel that the four creatures are four kingdoms. He continues by telling him that the fourth creature, the scariest one, would swallow up the other three. The fourth creature would then persecute the “saints of the most High” over and over again.
The person then says the old man would step in and overrule the fourth creature’s acts and the holy people would then experience an eternal kingdom. A shocked Daniel then ends the chapter by saying, “And there it ended.”
Dreams are funny things. The Bible is full of stories of dreams. Some are explained and some are left for us to figure out. And figuring them out sometimes has had many opinions from “Biblical experts” throughout the ages.
The truth of the matter is that we may never know what our dreams, or other’s dreams, really ever mean, if they mean anything at all. We might just simply explain away our dream as nothing more than a fairy tale story happening in our sleep. Or could they be a disguised version of something that is just happening in our life? Maybe it was just something we ate before we went to bed that is having an effect on us. Or, maybe those dreams are like Lincoln’s dream or some of the Biblical visions, and they mean something more. It is those latter dreams that are worthy of further investigation.
Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, When my eyes become blurry and my soul needs to rest, please watch over me in my sleep. If Your message is delivered to me in a dream, please help me to completely understand its meaning. If it is nothing but a dream, let my awakening be surrounded by peace or amusement. Amen.