Saturday, June 13, 2020
Watch Your Back!
I recently had a dream in which my husband and I were asleep in the bedroom of the house we moved from several years ago. Suddenly a loud commotion by the front door startled us from sound slumber, and we rushed out to see what had happened.
A gang of teenagers wielding knives were strutting through our foyer. Our son, who is now grown, but appeared to be about 12 years old in the dream, stood by apologetically.
“I thought I recognized them from school, so I let them in,” he said sheepishly.
“Get out of here before we call the police,” my husband commanded the angry teens.
“We’re just here to tell you, watch your back!” the ringleader threatened before skulking out with the others.
Surprisingly, I was not frightened by this confrontation, but rather puzzled as to its meaning. Nonetheless, we decided to leave the house for the time being, so our family checked into a nearby hotel.
Upon reaching our room, there was a message that we had been entered into a prize drawing held in the hotel ballroom, and that we had won a takeout meal. So we went down to the lobby and checked with the manager, who asked if we had received the flowers that someone had attempted to deliver to us. We said that we hadn’t, but asked her about the food we had won, and she brought it to us in several shopping bags.
Since it was already very late, we decided to take the food to the car so that we could enjoy it once we returned home the next day. But as I opened the car door and crawled in to position the bags on the seat, the door of the car parked next to us in the garage opened and a middle-aged, silver-haired man in a well-tailored business suit was pointing a gun at me.
“Hand over the food,” he said calmly but sternly. Of course I did so, shocked that an apparently wealthy and distinguished man would use a weapon to demand a bag of food, and thankful that he appeared to have no designs on my wallet or my life.
“Watch your back!” he uttered before closing the door of his Lexus and driving away.
As I awakened from the dream and contemplated its warning, I was struck by the very benign outcomes of what could have been horrific, life-changing tragedies, and also by the unexpected sources of the threats.
It had been my son who had unwisely opened the door to a gang of intruders, having been deceived into thinking they were his classmates. Thankfully, in real life, my son is a wise, responsible, thoughtful, and caring young man. I believe that his uncharacteristic behavior in the dream was a warning that sometimes those close to us can unwittingly endanger us, even with the best of intentions.
It reminded me that as the coronavirus pandemic progresses, we all need to take responsibility for one another, and not to be duped into thinking that the virus is harmless or even a hoax. We have all dealt with colds or other respiratory infections at one time or another, and our familiarity with these relatively minor disruptions to our daily life may allow us to let down our guard to the greater danger, and even mortality, of COVID-19 infection.
No one likes being on lockdown, or refraining from hugs and even handshakes, social distancing, or wearing masks, particularly if we feel we are in good health, but in these perilous times, loving one another requires these measures. Studies have shown that people infected with COVID-19 can spread it to others even before they have any symptoms, and that the virus may even be most infectious during this time.
In the dream, my son’s welcoming gesture of hospitality led to an imminent threat to our family’s safety. In reality, many COVID-19 outbreaks have started in social gatherings and even in churches, where doors were opened with the best of intentions. I recently heard of a church that had carefully reopened with seats 6 feet apart and social distancing measures, which were undone by a loving, elderly saint who embraced everyone as they came through the door!
Yet despite the potentially explosive situation in the dream of an armed crowd gathered in our entryway, the danger was quickly defused by my husband invoking the police, which I believe was a reference to God’s appointed and anointed authority figures here on earth (Romans 13:1-7), and by extension, to the protection of God Himself (Isaiah 41:10).
Like all mankind under the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16-19), those in authority battle their demons (Romans 7:14-25), and some give way to Satan’s temptation for sin to reign in their lives and manifest as evil toward others (Romans 6:12). Yet God has appointed them for a reason, and it is His role, not ours, to carry out judgment (Romans 2; Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Knowing that He is in control, even and especially when we seem to be in imminent danger, gives us peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the onlyWay to Heaven (John 14:6).
The ensuing events in the dream seemed to be a series of acts of bad judgment – leaving our home unprotected in the middle of the night; venturing forth from the security of the hotel room to claim a “prize” of takeout food; not realizing that it would spoil anyway if not refrigerated; and taking it to the car in an unsecured garage at an hour when criminals could easily be lurking about.
And yet God once again showed His hand of protection and mercy by allowing me to escape being shot simply by handing over the food I wouldn’t be able to use anyway. Each potentially fatal threat in the dream resulted in no harm to me or to my family, but only in the warning, “Watch your back.”
I believe the message of the dream is one of avoiding errors of bad judgment by being sober and vigilant, for our enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). It is true that no harm can befall us unless God allows it for our good and His glory (Job 1:10; Romans 8:28), and yet we are not to test Him by deliberately stepping into harm’s way (Deuteronomy 6:16).
Even knowing that an angel would rescue Him, Jesus refused to follow Satan’s instruction to jump off the highest point of the temple (Matthew 4:5-7). We would not run in front of a moving vehicle just to give God an opportunity to show His strength and His love by saving us. Rather, Scripture says that the prudent see danger coming and hide themselves, but the foolish ignore it and are punished (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12).
There are times when following God’s will requires not only trust in His protection, but a willingness to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13), as Jesus epitomized when He died on the cross to pay for all our sins so that we could be allowed into Heaven (1 John 3:16). Soldiers who risk their life for their country, health care workers in the frontline of the pandemic, and Christian martyrs who die to spread the Gospel, are human examples of this type of agape love. They deserve our utmost gratitude, praise, honor and respect.
Yet placing our personal freedoms ahead of public safety during the coronavirus pandemic seems to be a very different type of choice and of risk. By choosing to participate in large gatherings, not social distancing, and not wearing masks we may be endangering not only ourselves, but those in our community (ultimately, the world!) and those we claim to love.
While it may not be a popular decision, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15), which at this time we believe includes not putting others in harm’s way, to the extent possible. We will not test Him, and yet we have faith that He Himself will watch our back! He is our Commander and Rear Guard (Joshua 6:9,13) Who goes before us and behind us and Who encompasses us with His loving power (Psalm 5:12; 32:7; 139).
He has equipped His children with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), including the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the girdle of truth, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. No armor to protect our back is needed, for He Himself is there, guiding and guarding us wherever we go!
© 2020 Laurie Collett