A few years ago, before our current adventure and when I was confident that I had God figured out, I had a dream. In the dream I was looking down on a large one level building. The roof was removed and I could see that the building was a grid of smaller rooms. At some point in the dream, I realized that I was looking into a prison and each of the smaller rooms were cells for prisoners. I could see people in each cell and they appeared to be perfectly content, but as I watched prisoners began to grow agitated and started to pound on the walls. When the pounding began the prisoners were surprised to find that there were people on the other side of their prison wall. The prisoners then attempted to communicate with each other, but it must not have been very productive because they started chipping away at the walls and eventually created holes that were big enough to communicate through. The last thing I remember from the dream was the prisoners agreeing to take the walls completely down.
I don’t dream often and it is even more rare for me to remember details of a dream after awaking. This dream has been an exception for me. It has stuck with me, in vivid detail, for many years. Our journey has helped me see a possible application for the dream. I believe that the grid of prison cells represents the church world. Each organization/religion is in a prison cell. Each has a piece of truth; the Catholics are known for their charity, the baptists are known for their organization and Bible study, the Pentecostals are known for their pursuit of the Spirit of God and the list could go on and on. Each one has been content with their prison and they have grown proud of the truth that they possess, but something is changing. Individuals within each cell are growing discontent. They are not discontent with the truth that they have, they are discontent with the fact that they are lacking full truth. They can see that there is much more to God than they have experienced in their four walls. As a result, they begin to make noise and discover that there are others. At first they try to communicate through the walls that separate them, but soon realize that the walls simply need to be removed to facilitate better communication. Once the walls come down these believers will be able to compare notes and share the truths that were never meant to be segregated.
As I reflect on the events that followed this dream, I can see that God was stirring people all around me. One conversation in particular stands out. I was meeting with a couple of young men who were beginning to pound on the walls of their religion. My plan was to hear them out and attempt to settle them down. I was sure that if we could just talk it out, they would calm back down and be content with their religion once again. As the conversation progressed, it became abundantly clear that my plan was not going to work. As the tension in the room escalated, I felt an impression that I believe to be from God. I felt like God said that these young men have a point and hearing them and seeing their point was key to the breakthrough that was needed. I immediately struggled with that, because I thought I knew what was needed and what was motivating these young men. With hindsight, I can now see their point and I can clearly see the religious pride that prevented me from seeing it at the time. They were attempting to tear down the walls, but I had become comfortable with the walls and was only interested in defending them.
When a person has been in prison for a long time, they grow accustomed to prison life. As a result, they are no longer comfortable with the thought of living outside of the prison. This is referred to as Institutionalization. The institutionalized person refuses to acknowledge the benefits of living life outside of their prison cell and refuses to listen to those who attempt to convince them that life can be better. This is the best way to describe my mindset as I sat and talked with these two young men who were pounding on the walls of their, and my, religion.
I believe that the dream I had so many years ago is now coming to pass on a large scale. Many people are pounding on the walls and are willing to begin tearing down the religious pride that separates them from freedom. If you are one of those people, I want to encourage you to keep going and to not be frustrated by the religiously institutionalized. They are sincere people and they love you, but their institutionalized mind can not imagine life without the walls. As a result, they may ignore you or try to talk sense into you. I know this because I was institutionalized and that is what I did to the two young men that were pounding on my religious walls.