Practical Dream Interpretation Pt 1: Function over form, and looking for cultural idioms

One of my passions is interpreting dreams, and teaching others how to do it for themselves.  I am going to tell you right now that the books on the market are practically useless, they are one person’s opinion and although they can be right on some concepts, an American writing a book about dream interpretation often won’t be able to help someone living in an entirely different culture.

dreams

 

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What I like to focus in on is how to look at dreams, and when I teach this I use my own dreams as an example — after all, that is how I learned to do it.  If you look at your dreams using the same general principles, you will be better able to decipher them.

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So I am going to tell you the dream I had 8 days ago and then take you through my process.

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In the dream I had a man I used to be associated with approach me about desiring to have my wheelbarrow because he wanted to use it (stop laughing, this will make sense!) but I responded, “No, I still need it.”  Behind me, my husband said, “No you don’t.” I turned to focus on my husband and then went to look for my wheelbarrow, wondering why I didn’t need it.  The wheelbarrow I found was not the one we have in real life, but larger, and it had nothing in it but was badly rusted along one side of the rim.  I reached out and touched the rusty area and it crumbled off, leaving it unsafe to be used.  The man took it anyway without a word to me for his own use.

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I actually puzzled over this one for about a week.  I would come up with scenarios but I knew they weren’t correct.  So last night while praying in bed, I said to myself, “Okay, what is the function of the wheelbarrow?”  Wheelbarrows carry our burdens for us.  Then I had to say to myself, “Why a wheelbarrow instead of a suitcase (which oftentimes represents personal “baggage”) and why don’t I need it anymore?”

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So I started thinking about what wheelbarrows carry — stuff that belongs outside the house, oftentimes manure (which is what a lot of the burdens we carry amount to, if you get my drift), or dirt, but always stuff that has no place inside the house.  So now, why not a wagon?

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Wagons trail behind us while wheelbarrows present our burdens in front of us.  So really, this would be a way of placing our burdens between ourselves and others, carrying them around with us, and really no one can ignore a wheelbarrow that is between them and the person pushing it. Heck, you can ram a person with a wheelbarrow and harm them. This is going to represent a way of life, living with your burdens in plain sight, an obstacle to people getting close, you get the idea.

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Now, my husband told me that I do not need it.  I knew right away that this wasn’t literally my husband Mark, this is a representation of Messiah as represented by husband, the Master of the House (being a place where no wheelbarrow belongs).  After I turned my focus upon Him, hearing Him and devoting my attention to Him, I saw that my wheelbarrow was not as I expected — it was now empty, and rusted.  It had outlived its usefulness and when I touched it again, it started to crumble.  If you have ever seen this happen, you know that metal that has rusted to the point of crumbling is sharp and no good anymore.

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Sadly, this man took it anyway without another word.  (Honestly, I am sad to see that he has taken this.  I have lived this way, pushing my issues around in front of me and making it difficult for people to get close, and really forcing people to deal with my burdens.)  I don’t wish it on anyone, and especially not on their family and friends.

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So, do you see what I did?  I focused on function first and foremost, what does the wheelbarrow do?  Where is it used? What does a husband do? What function does a rusty wheelbarrow have?  Secondly, I looked at comparisons — why this and not that?  Why a wheelbarrow and not a wagon or a suitcase?  Third, I looked for cultural idioms — and the idioms of my culture will be different than those of other cultures.  In this case, carrying a burden is an idiom that means living with emotional trauma, resentment, a desire for revenge, or to be justified; there are many possibilities.  My wheelbarrow was empty – meaning that I do not have these burdens to carry before me anymore.  Fourth, or maybe first in any dream — be prepared to look at yourself in an unfavorable light.  If you can’t assess yourself honestly, you will never get the right interpretation; you have to be able to see the encouragement and the rebukes.

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I love this dream.  Not only is it confirmation of some changes in my life, but also because it is an easy dream to use as a teaching tool.  Notice what I did not focus on – color, numbers, etc.  I find that dream books often overemphasize these things, but the Bible doesn’t.  The Bible uses a lot of cultural references, and is really heavy on puns and idioms.  Colors and numbers can be important, but are often just side issues. Oftentimes when I see people trying to interpret Daniel’s dreams, they are doing so as 20th century Americans — presuming that a bear is Russia and not even bothering to find out what a bear represented in the ancient near east.  Now our dreams are different, and God will use things that will make sense to us.  Jacob’s ladder was not a wooden ladder, but probably a ziggurat, which in the ancient near east represented the gods ascending and descending to earth via the ziggurat stairway into Mesopotamia. Jacob would have understood this, he would have seen this and known exactly what it was and that it was saying, “No, Ur is not where God has established His Kingdom, Israel is the place where He sets His Name.” Dreams are specific to the person receiving them.  The Baker dreamed about baskets of bread, which meant something to him, and the cup bearer dreamed about grapes and wine.  When God is talking to us, He will use His intimate knowledge of our lives.

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I hope this helps.  Have a blessed week, and remember, if you want me to see your comment, I am still off facebook until December 26 so you have to make it on the blog.  My blood pressure is textbook beautiful 120/78 and I am having a wonderful, restful time of study and prayer.

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Update:  Interpretations are often incomplete until what is in them comes to pass.  This morning the man who was in my dream got in touch with me and apologized for hurting me a couple of years ago, no excuses offered.  I was right about the wheelbarrow, it’s function, and about the identity of my husband, but I was wrong about the man because of my preconceived notions.  He was the only person who could take that wheelbarrow away and he did it.  I include this in order to caution people not to get locked into an interpretation as being the gospel truth.  Dreams can guide us, rebuke us, encourage us, but they are not the same as scripture.

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