(This post originally appeared at Servants of Grace, and was updated from Knowing All the Words.)
In a recurring dream (or maybe it’s a nightmare?), I find myself back in college during exams week. The registrar’s office has informed me that I am still enrolled in a course I thought I had dropped, and that there’s nothing to be done except take the final exam. The problem is that I don’t know where the exam is being given. I never went to the class, and it was held in a building outside of my discipline, so I don’t even know where the building is. I spend the dream searching the campus, checking the clock tower, and fretting over how I am going to know what to write when presented with the exam, all while everyone around me is focused on their purpose and confident about the outcomes.
I feel out of sorts and out of control, anxious and even frantic that I am not prepared for something, that I haven’t sufficiently rehearsed to perform well, that I don’t know what’s expected of me, or even where to stand.
And then I wake up and whisper a sigh of relief that those exam days are over and wonder what I am anxious about that triggered the return of this dream.
I understand these kinds of dreams are not uncommon, nor is the level of panic unreasonable if we, in real life, found ourselves in a situation we are not prepared for. It would be like being selected to participate in a choir performance with no prior knowledge about the music to be sung, the words of the songs, or where to stand.
The Apostle John writes about just such a future performance and assures me that I have no reason to panic. In Revelation 14, we read about a heavenly concert, a choir consisting of a remnant, and a song of tribute. Despite the anxieties, fears, and discouragements that feeling lost in this life brings, the uneasy sense that I am an alien in this world, or the heavy burdens some of us bear, if we are counted among the brethren, then we are now, in this moment, about the business of learning that song.