Some time ago, I had a dream.
Before I explain what type of dream it was, I should mention that my dreams are very vivid—almost like being awake; like short visits to worlds yet unexplored. Sometimes, I can remember them immediately upon waking, but they will usually be forgotten if I fail to write them down. (As an aside, I think that the ability to remember one’s dreams goes hand-in-hand with having a well-developed imagination—something essential to a novelist.)
My subconscious will even, on occasion, incorporate sounds from the waking world and build a dream around it if the sound isn't loud and piercing enough to disrupt my sleep. Such was the case when Dan Gillerman's melodious, accented baritone memorably penetrated my dreams as it wafted from my television. In that dream, the voice seemed to be emanating from the throat of the man whom I loved and who seemed to pontificate about a war with Gaza.
However, for the dream mentioned at the beginning of this essay, there was never any need to write the details, and, whenever I reconsider it, it always looms large and has capital letters: The Dream.
At first, The Dream was a nightmare—the only nightmare ever in my nearly fifty years. I couldn’t see anything at first; I could only feel—and the feeling in question was pure terror. I’ve never come close to being that afraid when awake and I hope that I never do.
There was something--a living thing—in the room with me, a room with no windows and no doors. What was it? Evil itself is the only way to describe this entity.
I lay on a floor, curled up in a ball like a potato bug and unable to move. My eyes—my dream-eyes—were slammed shut for fear of seeing the thing. It seemed to menace my back, crackling the skin of it. In the manner which dreams unfold, I could “see” pieces of skin fall from my back; then my flesh would reintegrate and the process would start again.
I wanted to uncurl and turn to face the being, but fear stopped me. I could feel my chest heaving; it seemed as though the mere sight of the Thing of Evil would stop my heart forever.
Then I cried out to God and He answered, reminding me that He had not given me the spirit of fear; that the particular emotion had a different source. This reassurance seemed to slow my breath and un-paralyze my body. I stood up and opened my eyes but I still wasn’t quite able to face the Creature. “Stretch out your arms,” He said. I did so and opened my right hand. In it was a sword or a handgun[i](they seemed interchangeable) and, as is so in myth and in fantasy, my weapon had a given name.
Its name was “the Word of God.”
So, with weapon in hand, I “screwed my courage to the sticking-place” and turned to face my enemy, steeling myself to view its ugly face.
It was gone.
Weeks later, I was sitting in church and very much awake.
My pastor--learned in the languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek—was expounding on the two Greek terms for "word of God." One is a term with which most English-speakers are familiar—logos. The other, however, is one I had heard before but had no idea what it meant until my pastor began to expound upon it: rhema[ii]. The difference? People far more theologically learned than I are still discussing it but the difference seems to be in scope. A rhema is more of a short aphorism, rather than a long sermon or the Word in its entirety, and itis intended to counter the Adversary quickly when he’s trying to induce doubt and/or fear. For example, Jesus Christ used a quick succession of rhema on Satan when the latter tried to induce doubt about God the Father.
In short, when you hear preachers talk about “a word from God,” most of the time they are talking about a rhema.
“What does this have to do with your dream,” I hear you ask. My mouth literally dropped open when my pastor mentioned the other definition of rhema….
The Sword of the Spirit[iii].
Whenever I feel anxious about anything, I think of this dream.
[i] I own three handguns in the waking world. When people ask what they are for, I grin at the strange looks prompted by the answer: “for goblins.”
[ii] James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001),1641