At church we were reading the story of Jacob’s ladder, the angels ascending and descending from heaven, God communicating with Jacob as he lay there with his head on a rock for a pillow (I’ve always wondered how uncomfortable that must have been).
What had never quite registered with me before was how this extraordinary vision came to Jacob in a dream.
Somehow knowing it was a dream makes it more accessible. We all have dreams and as this story proves, dreams are one way God speaks to us. What I also often hear from people is “I don’t remember my dreams.”
I used to nod my head and agree with them. But lately I’ve done a few things that result in my remembering two or three dreams every night. A lot to keep track of!
1) Write your dreams down. I keep a small notebook next to my bed, and when I wake up from a dream—even if it’s the middle of the night—I write it down. To my surprise I usually fall right back to sleep. Partly, I think, because I stay connected to that dream world. In fact, staying connected to that part of my unconscious helps me sleep.
2) Look at your dreams first thing in the morning. If I look at the notebook first thing, I’m much more likely to remember the dream—and decipher my messy scrawl. If I wait till later in the day, I’ll wonder what my notes are referring to.
As is clear from the Bible, Jacob registered the significance of his dream as soon as he woke up. “Surely the Lord is in this place,” he said, “and I did not know it!” Talk about a wake-up call.
But what if Jacob had just turned over and gone back to sleep—on the uncomfortable rock? What if he’d ignored the dream altogether? History would have looked quite different. Which brings me to my last point:
3) Do something about your dreams. You might want to share the dream with a friend, helping you to understand it. Look at the connections it makes to your life. Fold it into your prayers. See if it’s calling you to a change in outlook or practice.
The other night I had a dream that I was building a little prayer shed for myself and being guided to pick out each plank. It reminded me that my commitment to contemplative prayer was something that I had to work on—plank by plank—and that I should not be overly concerned with distractions. Just keep building.
Jacob turned his life around after seeing those angels on the ladder, vowing to follow the Lord. He even set up that rock as a foundation for God’s house—a pillow turned into a pillar.
“Yes, that’s because he’s Jacob in the Bible,” we might say. But stop and consider this: God might just be using your dreams to help you live your best life. Step by step. Dream by dream.