I heard a song called, “Rip Van Winkle” and a line in the song says, “He went to sleep” and “When he woke he had grown old, he had grown old.” Here are some of the thoughts that came from hearing that song:
A barren, rock valley is filled with a sea of monsters. Blood-thirsty vampires share company with werewolves and various undead beings of the night. Ogres, goblins, and demonic figures of various sizes, shapes, and colors wield swords, clubs, spears, axes, and maces. Some of them sit upon ferocious, dragon-like creatures. They all gazed up the slopes of the valley. Deep, angry growls filled the air. Yellow-stained fangs gnashed. In rage, they even tore at their flesh with razor-sharp claws. Their hatred was channeled upon a band of humanity on top of the valley wall. A great battle is about to erupt, except none of the men are ready for battle. They stand empty-handed in their daily clothing: doctors, lawyers, farmers, construction workers, truck drivers, students, clerks, baristas, and others. Fear grips them all. Their enemies below are thirsty for blood.
From nowhere, a man atop a majestic white horse appears in the midst of the hopeless resistance, if they should even be called that. He is clothed in a white robe with a breastplate of sparkling stones, twelve stones, just like the breastplate worn by the high priests of ancient Israel. The evil army’s confidence vanishes at his entrance. Smiles came to the men; they knew this man, and so does the demonic horde below. The rider is Jesus. At once, the rag tag battalion atop of the valley is adorned in white robes and similar breastplates, each now with a sword in hand. With Jesus, their fear is gone. The white horse sprang up onto its hind legs to fall into a gallop down the valley walls. The Christians surge down with him to greet the army of darkness in battle. That’s when my friend awoke.
This dream, which my friend Danny had during the summer of 2010, is reminiscent of the famous Battle at Helm’s Deep in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. The men of Rohan were greatly outnumbered against the dark forces of the Wizard Saruman. It likely would be the last battle for the Rohirrim, but at the break of dawn, the Wizard Gandalf appeared mounted on a white horse with reinforcements, only a thousand strong, but with the light of the rising sun they charged to meet the darkness of evil. Darkness chose to flee into the forest where they were slaughtered. For J.R.R. Tolkein, who was a Christian, this scene must have symbolized the Light of the World, Jesus, breaking into the darkness of Satan’s kingdom.
Dreams as vivid as Danny’s, which serve as alarm clocks to arouse the dreamer to the spiritual war of this life, aren’t given to all dreamers. The mythologies and fantasies of men throughout the ages serve as additional wake up calls to the supernatural battle between good and evil. Too many people hit the snooze button and choose to sleep like Rip Van Winkle. In case you aren’t familiar with Washington Irving’s story, Rip was quite a lazy fellow who avoided profitable work. When America was still under British rule, he went into the Catskill Mountains with his dog and rifle. Intending to only take a short nap in the woods, Rip fell asleep for twenty years. When he awoke, he discovered that he had slept through all of the American Revolution. Life had passed him by. Are we going to be like Rip? Will we be disinterested in the important chores of life? Will we sleep through the war over the souls of men? Or will we choose to fight like the heroes of Seventy-Six, the men of Rip’s days who joined the revolution?
If the conjectures that can be drawn from these images are correct, there is a battle of epic proportions occurring in this present life. Embracing such imagery and applying it to my life is simple for me. My favorite movies involve bloodshed, and as a rather competitive man, who loves contact sports, I live life with an aggressive mindset and attitude. The application of this battle imagery isn’t as easily digested for everyone. Society as a whole is stepping away from engaging conflict and controversy. Ignoring contradictions in various worldviews and seeking pluralism at the cost of the exclusive truth-claims is becoming normative. Political diplomacy, harmony, tolerance, compromise, and assimilation are far more accepted and approved when conflicts arise, not just in international matters, but within all facets of life. The code of the Wild Wild West is dead. Keeping up with the Kardashians and other stars of reality shows is of higher importance than following conflicts in the Middle-East. The image of the Church being an army and Christians being at war isn’t a popular message for the masses. However, when dealing with teachings of the church, revelation trumps feelings, popularity, and the spirit of the age.
It should go without saying that pizza-inspired dreams and fictional fantasies shouldn’t be the driving force behind Church teachings on the battle between God’s light and Satan’s darkness, but if such widely accepted myths are actually symbols of a real struggle, then what parts should be taken literally, and which images are only metaphorical? Personal tastes need to be set aside and God’s Word must become the source and norm of Christian theology.
Or here is another call to “Wake Up!”