This is an account of a dream I had on the night of September 14, 1991.
I was walking toward an intersection of two streets somewhere in Boston. I don’t know what intersection it was, but I think it was somewhere in the business district. Though I don’t know what time of day it was, I know that it was part of either my morning or evening commute to or from work, and that the sun was shining.
As I neared the intersection, I noticed a man walking the other way. Though he had his back to me, and though I could see nothing about him to explain it, I felt drawn to him, like I’ve often felt before when the Lord leads me to talk to someone I don’t know.
He was a little taller than me, maybe an inch or so, but the way he moved made him seem shorter, almost bent down. It was far from obvious, though. There was just a softness in him, a gentle, humbleness that made him seem smaller than he really was.
His hair was slightly long, about shoulder length, parted down the middle, and pleasantly unkempt. His shirt was very plain, a neutral olive gray, with pants that matched.
Everything about him reminded me of any number of “bums” I’d seen in the city begging change. Only, there was something different about him, something I couldn’t put my finger on.
I walked closer, watching closely, listening for whatever the Lord might wish to say to prepare me to meet him. But I heard nothing. Other than the gentle attraction, the subtle curiosity, I could only see that he was stopping people as they passed, speaking to them for a moment, pausing as they turned away, then speaking to the next.
Assuming that he was in fact a bum, I came closer, close enough to see the faces of the people who turned away, and close enough to see the difference I had only felt before.
As for the people, each one looked as if they’d seen a ghost or spoken to a madman. Looking past the shrugging shoulders and shaking heads, I saw their fear and confusion and derision, some more than others, but all the same in their own way.
And as for the man, what was different, what I had at first not seen, was that he had nothing with him but the clothes on his back. Every bum I’d ever seen had some curious collection of worthless, yet precious treasures, paper bags full of who knew what, sticks and old belts and bottles, worn out, castaway, yet possessed, clung to for dear life.
But this was different. This man had nothing but the clothes on his back and the softness in his stature.
And it struck me. It struck me and made me come even closer. What kind of bum was this?
Somewhere across the remaining yards between us, I began to sense that he knew I was there, that he knew and was not surprised or concerned or excited. It was just a sense of being seen, like I’d only felt from the Lord, the same perfectly calm, all-seeing, penetrating, accepting clarity of vision.
Suddenly, I wondered. Maybe he wasn’t just a bum after all. Maybe he was a believer, just like me. Admittedly strange, but that would explain how I felt and why he might be there stopping people, and why they all seemed so universally troubled by what he said to them.
Slowing down a little, I felt suddenly nervous, stirred somewhere deep inside, wondering why I still felt so drawn, and why he seemed so strange and why I felt so confused.
Then, he turned, his eyes following the last man who hurried away as perplexed as all the others. Those eyes shocked me. They were so perfectly clear, so utterly transparent, that I felt suddenly blind, as if my own eyes were thick and all but useless.
They were bright and clear and very, very gentle. So gentle that I had to fight the urge to weep. And as they finally came to rest on me, those eyes staring into mine, I knew this was no beggar. No beggar, and no believer I had ever seen before.
Everything I saw in those eyes, I felt within me, stronger than my own feelings, as if the power of the Spirit flowed from him into me. It was beyond words, but more real than anything I had ever known. All the times I’d felt the Lord’s presence seemed distant and restrained compared to this.
Everything I saw in those eyes, all the grief, all the pleading for the lost, all the sweetness, the tenderness, the eagerness to give mercy, the purity of compassion, burned from those eyes, flowing freely into every part of me, filling me to the uttermost.
All prior anointings, all earlier washings, were as nothing compared to this.
And I knew who he was, just as he began to speak.
“It is done.”
I knew it was Him! It was Jesus!
And before I could even move, before I could fall at his feet or cry out His name, the wind began to blow. Wind and rain and sudden darkness, sweeping past us, climbing quickly to a point of fury, then beyond.
Sudden, total chaos. Deepening darkness. Rising fury.
Feeling the earth shift beneath my feet, I looked down, too bewildered to do anything but stare. I was standing on a broken chunk of cement, and it was floating above the ground, three, maybe four feet higher than the earth.
And as the tempest raged all around me, stronger and stronger, I realized that I couldn’t feel it at all, not even the slightest breeze. I could see and hear everything, all the rising madness in all its fury. But I was safe, perfectly safe on that floating chunk of rubble.
My first clear thought was a question. “What IS this?” And instantly I heard his answer, the same gentle, unmistakable voice, as clearly as when he first spoke, only in my mind and not my ears.
“It is done!”
“You don’t mean-”
He knew my thoughts even before I did. I was referring to His coming, that this was His second coming, His promised return. And he had said “Yes!”
Shaking like a leaf, eyes full of tears, still feeling all the depths of what had flowed from his lovely eyes, I stood and watched the madness grow quickly madder.
Everywhere I looked, buildings crumbled into the earth, buckling and collapsing, sinking into clouds of dust and smoke. Everywhere I looked, streams of people ran in all directions, some seeking cover, some simply running, all shockingly devoid of fear.
Not a single scream was a scream of terror. Some screamed in pain. Some in wrath. Some in something beyond insanity. None seemed to see the horror that surrounded them, the raining bricks and steel and glass. Completely blind to all but their own madness, they simply ran and screamed and died.
Rising quickly above the horror was the shame, shame at all the years spent in blindness, all the years spent working for money and resting and playing and attending to my own soul, all the years of wasted opportunities to bring my Lord to these sin-crazed souls spread out beneath my feet.
Wanting nothing more than to drag them from the dying earth to the safety of the floating stones, I jumped down to the street below, stopping the first man I could find.
Reaching out, I pressed my hand against his chest, frantically crying out to him and to the Lord, screaming above the fury of the storm, begging him to turn, rebuking the madness, the darkness and the sin.
His chest felt like stone, every muscle tensed at the peak of tension. Eyes bulging wildly, he couldn’t see or hear or understand. And, as I continued to plead, he twisted to the side and swung his arm, a shining flash of steel catching the corner of my eye, then shooting across the center of my stomach.
Whether it was a sword or just a huge knife, I don’t know. I could feel it rush through the middle of my body, slicing deep from left to right, then flashing an arc high into the air.
He had sliced me in half! Literally into two pieces. I could feel the top of my body slide softly front to back against the bottom, and then it stopped. Looking down, my hands reaching out to keep from falling, I felt the Spirit fall on me, soaking me from head to toe in His familiar, healing warmth.
Surging through me, the heat faded as quickly as it came, and I saw that I was whole. And even more, it was as if the man had never swung that awful sword at all. There was no blood, not even a hole in my shirt, nothing but the memory of the unleashed evil in the man’s eyes and the tension in his body.
All I could do was speak His name, half to thank Him, half to ask Him what this had meant.
“It’s too late.”
“My grace has lifted. It is now too late.”
“He couldn’t even hear you.”
Grieved at the finality of His words, I climbed back onto the block of cement hanging above the earth, noting that the storm had grown even fiercer than ever, amazed that I hadn’t felt even the slightest breeze in my encounter with the man.
Looking out across the crumbling city, I again saw streams of people. No longer running except to chase, utterly devoid of fear, they were locked in battle, men, women, children, madly screaming in delight, stabbing, beating, crushing, finally slaughtering, the killer and the killed all lost in twisted ecstasy.
Everywhere, as far as the eye could see, it was all the same, unleashed, unbridled evil, revelry in death, and I finally understood. What I was seeing, what I was hearing, in all its unspeakable fury, was the consummation of sin, sin unfettered by God, sin devoid of controlling grace. In a single, fearsome rush, all the power of lust and greed and hate and bitterness trapped in the hearts of the lost masses was trapped no longer.
The world cut off from God was dying.
Then, as the tears poured from my eyes, and the images of those I had passed by flashed before my mind, I saw that I was moving, and that I was no longer alone.
Floating slowly from all directions, men, women, children, some standing, others kneeling or sitting on their own piece of the city’s rubble, were moving toward a single center.
Still veiled of His glory, both hands raised in welcome, Jesus stood on the center stone, a ruptured block of tar, his eyes shining tenderly, forgivingly, even as they swam with tears at every scream that echoed through the raging storm.
Clustering together, no more than a hundred strong, we began to move across the city, the cluster slowly widening as others rose to add to the growing circle.
Again I saw my own blindness, now reflected in who rose to join us, and in who did not. Several old women from the shattered roof of an old church, a church I had assumed was dead, rising in joy, strangely free of bewilderment and shame.
These were my first surprise, finding the special place they held with the Lord I never dreamed they knew.
The second surprise only added to my shame. It struck me slowly, as the miles passed beneath us, as far too few came from the dying earth to join us. Fewer, far fewer, than I’d ever dreamed, or allowed myself to fear, were His.
Searching frantically for the ones I loved, I found my daughter, (the daughter I worry about most), kneeling on a stone beside the Lord. Looking further, I could find no sign of my other children or my wife, or anyone else I had ever known.
About to speak, the question rose in my mind, answered in the same breath.
“My wife. My children. Are they-”
The answer was a quiet one, a knowing. They were safe. There were other clusters like this, many others. Each with Jesus at the center. Most were in other nations, other lands.
And of all the nations of the world, the fewest came from America.
His voice filled my mind as I fought the anguish, His words speaking a world of understanding in gentle, piercing simplicity.
“Nothing was as it seemed.”
Shivering softly, I remembered His words from long ago. “My ways are not your ways,” and “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.”
Slowly at first, then more quickly, we began to rise, the swirling smoke and clouds of dust falling away beneath us. As the city shrank into a wider vista, I could see that the storm covered the earth. As far as the eye could see, there was smoke and fire and the sounds of screaming.
Rising from all directions, other clusters came to meet us, merging into the growing circle around the Lord until there were too many to count, and I could no longer see the other side.
Looking down, I saw the earth shrinking rapidly away beneath us. It was black, as black as coal, as black as it once was blue, great red fissures of flame running through it like great wounds, growing thicker and longer as they spread out across the blackened surface.
Gone were the stars and the clear darkness of space. In their place, a crimson haze, brightest at the edge of the dying planet, fading into darkness in the depths of space.
Turning back toward the center of the circle of stones, I saw the Lord, his plain shirt and pants strangely brighter, his countenance stronger, more radiant, his eyes full of light.
As I looked at Him, I could feel His beauty. I could feel the comfort from His strength bathing me and filling me. Deep inside, I felt myself change, unseen filth melting away, flowing from the center of my chest, fading into nothing.
Wave after wave, it felt like hot rain, like the hottest rain of summer, and like scabs being peeled from wounds. I could feel the relief, the freedom, the sudden absence of an agony I never knew was there.
And as I changed, all around me changed as well, including the Lord, His glory shining brighter in perfect keeping with our own lesser glory.
Again, I heard Him speak, His voice now full of joy and power.
“Come, it is time to enter the home I have prepared for you.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the edge of a wall, a perfectly smooth, perfectly white edge of stone that reminded me of marble.
It was at this point that I woke up, longing to go back to sleep, to see more of that shining wall, praying that He’d show me more.
I was tingling from head to toe, His presence stronger than I’d ever felt it before.
Still feeling much of what I’d felt as I had dreamed, I prayed that He would keep every detail in my mind, that He would keep me from forgetting, that I would have the grace to write it down and let it change me, that He would not let me remain as I had been.