“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Experts say that every night we have numerous dreams, most of which are forgotten. Even those rare dreams we remember often seem so random and bizarre that we don’t pay much attention to them. We laugh them off and continue to go about our day.
Recently I had a dream that seemed that way at first. It was one of those dreams that appeared briefly just before I woke up. In it I saw some squirrels in the back yard and noticed one of them was a creamy color, almost white. I said to whoever was with me, “Look at that white one! And check out the tail!” The fluffy tail was unusually large and magnificent, but then I noticed that the whole creature seemed large – too large to be a squirrel. I also noticed that its head was shaped more like a sheep’s, and it definitely had a sheep’s face. I was about to conclude that it was indeed a sheep, but suddenly I noticed how it was moving – more like a dog. And now its legs were longer, too long and slender for a sheep. Just then I saw a young man walking with the creature and concluded that this unusual creature must be his dog. At that moment I woke up. The whole dream seemed to have taken about fifteen seconds.
Huh! I thought as I remembered the dream , considered its weirdness, and dismissed it from my mind.
But later, as I was turning my mind over to God for the day (Romans 12:2), I prayed, as usual, that I would remember what I needed to remember and forget what I ought to forget. I immediately remembered the strange dream. In light of what I had just prayed, I thought maybe the image of the squirrel-that-became-a-sheep-that-became-a-dog might be worth contemplating. After a moment or two I realized that I had been given a glimpse of three stages in my spiritual growth:
Squirrels are … well, squirrely. They’re uncontrollable, full of energy, and seemingly unconcerned about anything. I could see the resemblance between such a critter and myself as a child. I was unaware of my Creator, unaware of where I was going, unaware of (and unconcerned with) the feelings of those around me, and barely aware of myself. And yet, even as I was in this state of blissful ignorance, the God I was oblivious to already had His hand on my life. Sinner that I was, someday I would be washed clean by His blood – hence the almost-white squirrel among the numerous grey ones.
Sheep are a step up from squirrels. They’re still basically self-centered, but they do have some awareness, and they are aware of one thing: They need their shepherd! Dumb as they are, most of them, most of the time, know enough to stay close to the shepherd, and when they do go astray and get themselves into trouble, the shepherd will rescue them and bring them back to the fold. If a lamb sustains an injury, the shepherd will bind up the wound and carry the little guy on his shoulders until it can walk on its own again. After that the lamb will never leave the shepherd’s side.
After I believed in Jesus and asked Him to be my Savior, I was like that little lamb – acutely aware of my dependence on Him. He has always taken good care of me, protected me in moments when I had put myself in danger, and showered me with undeserved blessings. For years I have followed Him and wanted to be as close to Him as possible, because I knew that to do so was the best thing for me.
A dog is a step up from a sheep. While sheep seem to be looking for food, safety, and security, dogs seem to be more capable of what we call “love.” While there is some debate over an animal’s ability to truly love, it’s undeniable that “Man’s best friend” can be fiercely loyal to his master. He shows more than a “what’s-in-it-for-me?” attitude. Dogs are capable of working hard, helping hunters, police, and firefighters. We even have “service dogs,” who’s whole purpose in life is to help people with special needs. They work with a happy enthusiasm that is sadly lacking in humans. (I have never heard a dog grumble as he serves his master.) Many dogs have been known to put themselves in harm’s way, even give their lives for the humans they are devoted to.
So, as I remembered the way the sheep in my dream was transformed into a dog – and only then did I see the master – I thought of the next stage of spiritual growth. It’s the stage where salvation is more than “fire insurance,” more than a way to “get blessed.” It’s a love relationship with Someone who loved me enough to lay His life down for me, and believing that I was put on this earth to serve Him. It’s a life of serving with joy and fierce loyalty the One to whom I owe everything. It is to love and serve Him until my last breath, and with that last breath to still be praising Him.
So, where am I now on that journey? Am I the oblivious little squirrel – amusing in small doses, but in the long run utterly useless? Or am I God’s “little lamb,” staying close to the Lord because He takes good care of me and does nice things for me? Or am I ready to give myself wholeheartedly to my Best Friend, to go wherever He wants, to do whatever pleases Him, and to be willing to lay down my life for Him and follow Him into eternity?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, who offered Your life as an atoning sacrifice, I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice. I have spent enough time playing in Your presence, resting in Your care, and basking in Your blessings. Today I offer You my time, my energies, my passions and possessions – not to earn Your love, but in gratitude that it’s already mine. Rekindle my love for You daily, and lead me in joyful service according to Your desires, in Your precious name. Amen