Not Woke but Waking
Morning by morning God wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. – Isaiah 50:4b-5 (NRSV)
The other day I had a dream in which I did something terrible and irreversible. I did it almost without thinking, but slowly the magnitude of it dawned on me, until my regret was strong enough to wake me up. I soothed myself by repeating, “It was only a dream. It was only a dream.” But I was still shaken.
Then I woke up again, from that dream, and I realized how far down the rabbit hole I had been.
Isaiah isn’t woke, but he is waking. Morning by morning, day by day, keeping an open spirit as he is pulled from the dream within a dream within a dream. God coaxes him out, teaches him what is real, and he doesn’t turn backward.
Which impresses me. Because in my experience, this kind of spiritual wakening is the opposite of waking from a dream. Every step is harder.
I wake to the pain I’ve caused someone, and I recognize how real it is. Something I’ve said or done almost without thinking, the magnitude of it dawns on me, and I’m shaken. It wasn’t a dream. That careless turn of phrase. That unconscious bias. That unthinking unkindness. It wasn’t a dream.
More than once I’ve rebelled, tried to turn backward, closed my heart and refused to be taught. More than once I’ve believed myself woke, finally arrived at reality, determined to go no further.
And then God opens my ear again to the sound of the alarm.
Deliver me, O God, from my sleepwalking. Wake me again.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.