Last night I had a dream.
I was traveling with two companions on a hot, Sunday afternoon, on what seemed to be an unending roadway, a dusty thoroughfare, attempting to arrive at a church to set up our equipment and share our vision. The humidity was so high it was difficult to breathe and sweat poured down our faces, leaving us with headaches and nearly devoid of energy. When we finally arrived at our destination, it was a large, rustic, barn-like tabernacle with too many steps, wooden seats and no air conditioning.
We unloaded our equipment, set up and began with our sound check. I played Let It Be, by the Beatles, and sang about a verse and a half, when a young man appeared from a back room of the barn structure and stopped me, telling me we would not be allowed to perform that evening. When I asked him why, he explained that the leader of this particular church or organization was in his office and had heard me sing the worldly song and knew in his spirit that we were not fit to preach to his congregation. The young man before me was resolute, angry and with just a hint of glee over sharing the news with me.
I asked to see the leader and excused myself from my companions, who informed me they were very hungry and needed some nourishment. I told them that I would be back, and was escorted into an office, where an old man with a tattered suit sat behind a desk, leering at me. He looked similar to that white-haired cult leader in the Poltergeist series–the one who had led his followers to destruction. I made a case to him. I explained that I only sang the Beatles song to warm up my voice and that it wasn’t in our program. He didn’t care. He insisted that my choice of songs told him that I had no real heart for his people and that therefore it was his duty to protect them from my errant ways.
I spent what seemed to be the next many hours reasoning with this fellow about my dreams, aspirations and asking him to give us a chance. He walked around from room to room, not really trying to escape my pleas, but more or less seeing if I would follow him to continue my groveling. Finally, he agreed to let me sing two songs and then, if everything was all right, he might let me share a word or two.
On the way back to the barn structure, somebody walked up to him and gave him some news, and he began to pound his fist into his hand and then rolled around in the dusty ground until his coat was covered with dirt. He ran into his “tabernacle” and began to weep bitterly. The small audience that had gathered in the wooden seats joined in the crying, hovering around him to comfort him.
Suddenly, in my dream, I was transported back to the dusty roads and saw young people–including the one who had so gleefully given the report of the disappointing news–climbing a hill. They were all dressed in tattered robes, but marching in step with one another, towards a destination which somehow or another I knew to be a rally of anger, bigotry and destruction.
All at once I was transported back to the tabernacle and the beleaguered leader with the unkempt clothing waved his hand, giving me permission to share my song. I went to the piano and began to sing, but my comrades were unable to join me because they were weakened by a lack of food, so I tossed each one of them an apple, and as I sang, they munched, gaining strength.
I sang my song, but no one was listening. The audience, which had been very small to begin with, had now shriveled to a mere dozen, huddling around the weeping leader to give him comfort, and they had no interest in anything I had to share. I finished my song and the white-haired lamenter lifted his head, with red eyes and tears streaming down his face. He said sternly, “You should have left.”
In my dream, I remember thinking that not only was it bad English, but also that it was cold, deliberate and stubborn. I quickly packed up my belongings and climbed into the car.
I awoke. As you all well know, dreams are nearly as much emotion as they are revelation of images. I immediately understood what had transpired.
The old man was the stubbornness of religion and politics, which believes it can continue the same practices which have proven to be unfulfilling and satisfy the present needs.
The angry souls in the tattered robes were those who were abandoning faith–and government–wandering off to unknown pursuits that will only bear the fruit of their rage.
And the handful that remained are the wounded participants of systems that have failed them, but they have no other place to go so they spend all of their time defending and comforting the stubborn.
I was the outsider. I was not welcome because I had too much of earth for the religious and too much of spirit for the political. I was alone. I had those who desired to travel with me, but the nourishment of encouragement was absent.
Yes, I awoke from my dream feeling a great sense of purpose, as the politicians and religionists of our day try to stubbornly return us to traditions which have long past lost their fervor, and the young people and disenfranchised wander away with a tattered sense of purposelessness, at the mercy of the next burst of frustration. And the wounded remnant, who once believed in great ideals, now merely guard the ruins and stand by, unable to hear any newness for their lives.
It is the duty of those who still have a vision for love and a faith in humanity to persevere with good cheer.
In my dream I was pulled. Now that I’m awake, I am pulled towards keeping on.
Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:
To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!