Last night I was awakened from a sound sleep by a dream, a nudge, a troubled sense that a family we know needed prayer. So I obeyed. My prayer was whispered--or said without spoken words at all--in that place between waking and sleeping, and had the sense of a dream about them, too. But then I was conscious that my prayer was rote, not deeply felt or meant, and so I asked the Holy Spirit to pray through me. After all, He had encouraged my participation in whatever the great need was, a thing He knew (and knows) completely. Then the substance of my praying changed. Became real, I suppose. It wasn't long after that that I fell back asleep.
It wasn't the first time such a thing has happened to me, but it was the first time for this strange phenomenon: though I remember praying, I cannot remember who the family was for whom I prayed. That, apparently, is not mine to know right now. They are friends--I wasn't unfamiliar with them--but I have the feeling that I don't pray for them on a regular basis.
This may well seem strange to you--that God, the Holy Spirit would come to me in a dream. But there have been a variety of ways He's done so. For instance when I was writing my novel, I'd often spend a day struggling with a scene, go to sleep, and the answer would come while I slept. I KNOW this was Him, because it was God Himself, via a dream, who gave me the idea (a very clear and developed storyline) in the first place--a story, scene I cannot imagine EVER thinking up on my own. He's also given me peace when I've struggled with relationships, my own heart, a path to take (like laying down that novel--which was the hardest decision I've ever faced). And this call to pray. So many, many times. I never quite grow used to it, but always welcome such invitations because the idea that He's there in the dark of night, asking this of me is sweet.
Dreams, of course, are not uncommon in Scripture. We all know that. The one I most love is of the man who thought the best--most loving--solution to his espoused wife's pregnancy was to let her go (presumably to the other man? I like the think this). But his decision was exactly the wrong one. So God came to Joseph in a dream to tell him not to be afraid (of Him, of the public outcry, of the miraculous thing happening within Mary?) but to take Mary as his wife. Joseph probably woke straight up after that dream, rubbed his eyes, and wondered for a moment. Then sank back down on his pallet (no mattress topper for him!) and believed by faith. Believed in the dream. Believed in the One who'd spoken in the dream.
Then he got up and obeyed.
Which makes Joseph the first follower of Christ. Mary didn't have to believe by faith. She KNEW she was a virgin. Joseph had to believe it. Mary KNEW that God had put His seed within her. She'd felt the baby--the INCARNATE--kick inside. Joseph had to believe (though, of course, he'd watched her grow big with child.
Joseph, the follower. Joseph, the faithful. This is the man who became the step-dad to God. The man who would raise HIM. Could there have been any other man?
We neglect Joseph too often. Mary is deified. And rightly so. She carried God in her womb. She was His mother. But Joseph's place was only barely less amazing. Clearly purposed. And we do well to honor him.
And, from his example, learn to listen when (or even ask for) God to speak to us in our dreams.