I had a dream this morning that I was wandering through a wilderness. Trees lined up all around me yet were filled with rows upon rows of pews. People lined in them with everyone staring forward at the man up above who was teaching and preaching the gospels.
As I went in and got closer, I was turned away by the head pastor because my faith wasn’t strong enough. Just before he turned back to the congregation, he told me I needed to go back and find another way that best suited me. I could not believe that I was just humiliated by the pastor. But without a fight, as instructed, I walked away to find another path that best suited me.
When I found a place that I thought I could fit in, a few miles away deeper into the wilderness and farther away from the teachings of the pastor so much so that you could barely hear what he was saying, I saw a smiling face and was at first embraced by one man to come and sit with him. He was kinda cute to me, very appealing and easy on the eyes; yet when I tried sitting next to him, the women around him told me to move because I did not belong there. No matter how much I tried to get comfortable, they wouldn’t stop harassing me and wouldn’t allow me to stay seated. They mocked me and told me about myself and how I thought I was so better than them. They belittled me and asked me to leave to go sit with the people up front who I was more alike. No matter how hard I tried, how much I fought to convince them otherwise, it was clear I was no longer welcome there.
Again, I found myself not belonging, not fitting in anywhere. So I gathered myself and took my frustrations and confusion back through the woods, down that same path, towards the church with that very same pastor that threw me out before.
This time when I arrived, everyone was walking around the church halls encircling it. I couldn’t understand what they were doing and why, yet I somehow was ushered to join in. So I walked with them and as I listened, I could hear them chanting, praying and speaking in tongues. Some were confessing their sins while others were praying and crying about the things they did not have and how God promised he would deliver them, yet they could not see the results. So I began to pray as well while witnessing this situation at hand.
I was nervous trying my best to avoid that mean pastor who sent me away before. But in my trying to stay hidden, I caught the eye of an elderly lady/minister who reminded me of Pastor Harbin from Ford Memorial Temple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She came up to me and told me to follow her. I pursued without question. As she was about to ask me why I was there, I noticed she was leading me straight to the eye sight of that very same pastor who was now sitting on a throne surrounded by a few men who I could overhear chatting causally and calmly about talents and the television show American Idol. It was the weirdest thing ever to witness such a conversation, a casual one at that, from a man of the cloth who just seemed like a villain to me because he kicked me out of the church.
When the minister got in front of the men, she turned to ask me a question, “Why are you here? Where did you go and what did you learn?” Puzzled, I thought it strange to be asked such questions especially considering the fact that her pastor, this man I so wanted to follow, had just publicly kicked me out and sent me away just a short while ago. So even though I thought she would’ve known the truth by now, I replied, “Well the pastor kicked me out.” As I proceeded to go further, she turned to face another direction and the head pastor, the very one I so wanted to avoid seeing, while sitting on his throne, yelled down to her and asked to speak with me alone. She obliged and walked away before I could tell her that wasn’t necessary and that I was going to leave again as he instructed me to do the first time.
Surprised by his seemingly warmer disposition towards me, he asks, “Can you sing?” Again, puzzled and taken aback, my response was, “Depending on who you ask.” He looked down at me rather perplexed and waited for a better, more thorough response. As I went to proceed, his disciple to the left of him blurted out, “Now what does that mean? Either you can sing or you can’t.” So I simply replied, “If you ask me if I can sing, I would tell you no. Yet if you ask another, they may tell you yes.”
So the pastor sitting on his throne, yelled out to the crowd of people standing around, “Does anybody know if she can sing?” He then looked over to a couple standing nearby and asked, “Mrs. Chris, can she sing?” I looked in astonishment in the direction where he was looking and noticed he was referring to my godmother. Again, just as perplexed as I was to see Minister Harbin pop out of nowhere, my godmother graciously and obediently responded, “Why yes, she can sing.”
Just then, the rude disciple murmured toward the pastor, “She must can’t sing if she denied it.” This started to infuriate and annoy me. Again, not only has this pastor threw me out of his church and told me to go away, but now his ‘trusty disciple’ is putting me down and humiliating me in front of all these people. Worst, this time around my godparents and people I knew were standing about and watching me look stupid. As I pondered what my next move would be, the pastor simply said, “Sing me a song.” “What song?,” I asked. He replied, “Sing me whatever song comes to mind.”
I can’t remember the name of the song, but without thought nor further questioning, I started to softly sing.
As I wanted to deep down inside sing at the top of my lungs so I could prove to everyone who mocked me how wrong they were, all that kept coming out of my mouth was this little kid voice I used to sing with when I was on the church’s choir at Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia under the direction of my former choir director Ms. Karen Hightower. Feeling nervously embarrassed and ashamed, I looked around and saw that the same disciple who mocked me before was now laughing at me while a few others in the crowd were jeering at me. It was like I was standing in front of the congregation at Zion all over again– a little kid nervous to sing in front of this huge audience even though Aunt Karen (as we called her) was egging me on to sing the solo louder.
Just as I felt this embarrassment had reached it’s core and I was ready to give up, out of nowhere, I began to start singing, His Eye Is On The Sparrow. I looked up at the pastor who was still looking down on me smiling as if amused and moved by my performance. Suddenly, while fixated only on Him, I sung with such authority it practically scared me. I never knew I had such a powerful voice. It felt like it shook the place. All I know is that everyone who was standing around, staring, laughing and jeering at me were now silently watching me.
When I finished, they all applauded my performance and even the once jeering disciple, was impressed. Then everyone, suddenly and without further notion nor instruction, fell quiet as the pastor began to speak to me.
“Why are you so timid?”
What!?! Me, timid!?! How dare he ask me that question seeing as though he just humiliated me a few moments ago (which really felt like hours ago) when he initially sent me away. Out of nowhere, I couldn’t hold back my frustrations any longer.
I began to speak, “I am a Christian woman, who has a college degree and was taught to question everything. The very essence of Christianity was meant to go out and teach people the gospel and encourage them to ask questions. How can you throw people away because they ask questions? Do you not answer a boy who wants to know how his body works? How can you teach the word of Jesus and the Body of Christ when you won’t even teach a boy about what to expect from his own body? How can you encourage people to pick up their bibles, but only when they are listening to you teach it? Why are they not encouraged to read and ask questions on their own?”
Just as I was about to continue, the pastor, who’s face was starting to seem oddly blurred to me, instead started asking me questions. Very calmly yet with stern authority, he asked, “Again, so why are you so timid? Why sing in such a soft voice when you have a stronger more powerful voice inside of you? Why do you claim to ‘not be able to sing’ when you clearly know how? Why are you so afraid of teaching the Word of God?” Confused and with a lump in my throat, as I tried to swallow to answer, he cuts me off and continues, “You are to be like a tree. Unmovable, unwavering, not easily to be uprooted. Yet you waver like the waves in the water. You speak about the Word of God, yes, but yet when you do so, it comes across as soft and timid. As if you are scared to speak up. Why is that? Why are you so afraid of teaching the Word of God?”
As he stopped, this time clearly awaiting my response, I couldn’t help but look around the room. Everyone appeared to still be looking my way, waiting to see what I would say. But I could only clearly make out the faces of my godparents and Minister Harbin. This time when I responded, I looked down at my hands which were now trembling. As I opened my mouth, looking back up, I responded, “Because I’m no teacher. I’m not meant to teach. How can I? I don’t have the authority like others do to teach the Bible. I only speak from my own personal experiences and how the scripture and God’s interference with my life impacted and helped guide me. That’s all. I can only speak from my personal experience.”
He stopped me, still a very calm demeanor yet with even more authority in his voice so much that it echoed through the walls of the church as he replied, “So why does that make you any less of a teacher? Do you not think that the disciples of Jesus’ time didn’t go out and speak the gospels according to what they were taught and how it impacted their life? Do you not think that every miracle Jesus ever did, that those people who witnessed it, didn’t run back to their towns and tell people about what they saw and witnessed for themselves and how it changed and impacted their lives? I say to you, you will always waver if you do not become strong. Take up your mantle and what you are expected to do. Teach the gospels or you will continue to fall. As long as you are timid and afraid, you will never experience success. You have a strong and powerful voice inside you but you will always go through this Hell if you do not start using it. You are meant to teach. Do your job and do so with authority.”
As I looked up with tears in my eyes and perplexed as to how he knew I was failing at trying to succeed in my life, his face, brown skin like grounded cinnamon, appeared even more blurred to me, yet I could still see the features and shape of him –although now he was much taller and his throne appeared to almost be floating in the sky.
I wanted to speak up and say something else, but just as he was continuing to speak to me, there was a knock at the door. Quickly startled, I groggily opened my eyes.
It was all a dream. Even though I knew it to be true, as always, my dreams felt so real. Though something about this one though seemed, felt, very different. There was another knock at the door and I could hear someone call my name. I didn’t want to respond but I respectfully replied to my grandmother (though inside my mind I was slightly annoyed that she had just interrupted a conversation I now believed I was having with the one and only Jesus Christ), “Yes?”
She opened the door and informed me that someone was coming later to hang my painting up on my wall. Then she went away closing the door behind her. Just as the events in my dream, I found it so odd that she chose this time to tell me something irrelevant about hanging up a painting Ive had for weeks now. We bought it awhile ago and it has a scripture on it that reads, “Be still and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10.” Still, I couldn’t for the life of me comprehend why now, of all days, would she come wake me up bugging about it getting hung up on my wall. Shrugging it off, I just figured she was tired of it sitting in the hallway.
Anyways, after that minor encounter, I tried to go back to sleep into that dream. Although I was able to view the scene once again and seemingly pick up where I had left off, this time everyone was a blur and I could no longer hold the conversation as strongly as I once had with him. I felt so ashamed at how quickly and easily I was dragged out of the dream by just a knock at the door. Disappointed, I could see the pastor, the man I now knew to be Jesus Christ. He was still looking at me calmly, with authority planted on his throne. He spoke to me but his mouth didn’t move. He didn’t really speak to me from his mouth, but his words came through my heart and mind.
The last thing I heard him simply say to me, “Do you think you wake yourself?” When I went to reply, no, it was too late. He smiled at me, waved his hand as if to say ‘so long until we meet again’ as I drifted back to consciousness. As quickly as all the stories I’ve written before, I reached for my phone and with tears in my eyes, wrote this special yet strange encounter with the Lord.
I do not know what it really means, but I am a willing vessel ready to serve him. I will pray and ponder on this teaching and once in a lifetime experience I just encountered. I can say though that if ever I wondered if Jesus heard me, was really there watching me and listening to my prayers and cries for help and guidance, if he really listened to my heart’s desires to follow him and to know my path in life, I surely got my answer today.
I pray my testimony, my encounter, be a beacon and a blessing to whoever reads this. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.