dreams in the dark

The hours of daylight are fewer now, with sunset scheduled for 4:30. Time to lean in for the season, the darkness in which life germinates. Can we embrace the night? Knowing that we need the dark as well as the light, our interior world to inform our public life, fertile dreams to guide our waking actions. 

Today I read of leaders and citizens, ancient and current. The second chapter of Daniel and the News-Gazette. I appreciate how the patterns and metaphors of story and history speak into our present day. Daniel is an especially good companion, as we were reminded Sunday, in discerning how to live faithfully in the empire of our time. If Daniel were one of the 77 members of our local African American community voicing the one word that came to mind about the powers that rule, what might he say?

Daniel was a youth in exile, taken from his ancestral land, groomed for leadership in Babylon. He was always Other, never fully assimilated or accepted. We understand this in our own context. Native youths who retained their sense of self and culture, despite governments’ attempts to erase their identity. African-American leaders whose lives are always in danger, no matter their success. Jewish and Asian citizens knowing that they are not fully members of white or black America. As Christians, we are reminded in church and communion that our allegiance is to no nation, but to the kingdom of God. 

Winter nights. It was the season of dreams- bringing anxiety, hope, and danger- for Daniel, the Babylonian king, and would-be interpreters. Nebuchadnezzar’s first impulse seems always towards violence, whereas Daniel and his God act to preserve life. Daniel cares for his own survival and that of his friends, but also for those who care nothing for him. 

“Don’t wipe out the sages of Babylon! Bring me before the king, and I will explain the dream’s meaning to him.” Daniel 2:24b (CEB)

Both Daniel and the king are dreamers. They know that those visions in the dark are important; God is present in their night. Do we all have a safe space to sleep, a protected place for our dreams? The streets of Champaign-Urbana are cold in winter. Once again, the city looks to New Covenant as a haven for those away from, without, homes.

Reading of the Judean exiles, I am reminded that Daniel did not feel, or act, alone. He had roommates. They ate together, prayed together, faced death together, stood faithful together. 

Then Daniel went to his house and explained the situation to his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah so that they would ask the God of heaven for help about this mystery, in hopes that Daniel and his friends wouldn’t die with the rest of Babylon’s sages. Daniel 2:17-18 (CEB)

We, too, need community in the midst of the empire. Those who seek the God of heaven- for help, for mysteries, for hope, for life. Friends.

May we have companions who see visions in the night. May we know dreams that give courage. May we trust the God who created life to germinate in darkness. May we act to preserve the lives of those around us, precious to us and to our common Creator.  -Renée

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