Many times the old testament prophets wore coats of animal hair to signify their calling, that they “worked for God.” In my dream (see below) I am wearing a coat made up of the good deeds I felt I had done for God — but that coat, and the deeds that it signified, did not count for anything! Instead, the clothing of right-standing was provided by God and counted for everything.
This morning I read the following from Max Lucado and it took me back to my dream about the Coat and the Shining Man: “Our spiritual legs have no strength. Our morality has no muscle. Our good deeds cannot carry us across the finish line…but Christ can!”
Run to Him fellow travelers, run to Him!
The Coat and the Shining Man
I had a dream once. Through the swirling fog of the dream I saw myself walk slowly, almost solemnly out upon the pinnacle of a rock, tucked into the side of a cliff far above the desert plain below. I couldn’t help but notice that the cliff looked very much like Pride Rock from the movie “The Lion King”. I looked down from the cliff to see a large assembly of people milling about and talking, looking as if they were waiting for someone or some thing. Eventually, someone in the crowd noticed the “me” on the cliff, and pointed. As one, the crowd stopped talking and looked up, silent and expectant.
It was then that I became aware that the other “me” was wearing a large coat. Actually it was more like a cloak than a coat—heavy, thick, and magnificent. As I watched, “I” held up my arms and turned around, slowly like a model, showing the rather extraordinary coat for all to admire. I knew without knowing how, that I’d made this coat. It was a coat made of various animal skins and furs, somewhat attractively pieced and sewn together in irregular patches of eight to ten-inch squares. I also understood somehow that each patch on the coat represented, either a good deed that I had done in my life, or a personal sacrifice that I had made for others. It was as if my good deeds had manifested themselves as a coat.
I stood there watching myself on the apparent pinnacle of my life, posturing before the crowd and filled with pride because of the coat that I’d made. At that moment, I became aware of an even stronger sensation, one of intense longing and almost ravenous hunger. I watched myself actually begging, craving, and pleading for the admiration and approval of the people that watched from below. It was apparent that I not only wanted them to like the coat, but I desperately wanted them to like and admire me!
As the fog of the dream swirled again and then cleared, I realized just how unhappy the “me” wearing the coat was. The truth dawned on me that that the me on the cliff was afraid that the people below would not recognize how great the coat was that I had made. I stood there feeling that the coat-wearer was very much alone, all his hopes and dreams resting on the approval of an unknown crowd of people. I was afraid that the coat wasn’t good enough for them, or good enough for God.
God? Now that was the first time I’d thought of Him in a while. In that instant, I inexplicably realized that what I feared most was that God wouldn’t accept the coat, or me, and that I would be cast down from the mountain and trampled underfoot by the mob. The fear seemed to freeze my heart and body from the inside out. I struggled to move, think, even to cry out.
Suddenly, I caught a glimmer of something bright and moving quickly far across the desert plain below. I looked hard and squinting my eyes from the glaring brightness, I was able to make out what appeared to be a man, dressed all in white and seeming to run as fast as his legs would carry him. He looked to be running towards the bright light that was now rising like the sun on the far side of that vast, open plain. Details started to become clearer the longer I watched and the closer he came to me. His white garment appeared to be made of a single piece of fabric and covered him completely from his neck to his feet. Distracted by the odd, brilliant whiteness and simplicity of the garment, I looked for, but did not see a seam or button anywhere. I found myself idly wondering how he had been able to put on such a strange, perfectly fitted outfit.
Shaking my head, I looked closer and could see the man smiling, eyes shining and full of light. There was laughter and joy written all over his face. It was only then that I was astonished to realize that the man running was me, or rather, another “me”!
Catching a movement below, I looked to see the crowd watching the shining man just as intently as I was. Interestingly, even as he passed by the crowd, he didn’t seem to notice the large number of on-lookers. Instead, his eyes seemed fixed elsewhere, on that place across the plain that continued to grow lighter, brighter, and warmer. Soon that light shone so brightly that I could no longer look at it. The shining man looked at it though, neither turning to the left nor the right, he continued running directly towards it. You couldn’t help but notice that he was very, very happy. Watching him then made me want to laugh aloud. There was such a sense of joy, peace, and eagerness upon his face, that I found myself wanting desperately to be him instead of the “me” standing scared and alone there on the mountain. It occurred to me then that the light that I had thought had been emanating from the shining man—was actually just his garment reflecting the brilliant light that streamed from across the plain. Captivated as I was by this incredible scene as it played out before me, I literally jumped when a voice like thunder burst from the light, “Behold my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Struck to my heart, I fell to my knees there on the mountain’s edge, desperate to throw off the heavy, burdensome coat. I cried out that I might change places with my other self, that I might be accepted by the Lord, that I might know His love, enter into His presence, be filled with His joy, and find His peace …
I jolted awake.
Wide-awake and sobbing, tears streaming down my face, I knew that God had shown me two possible futures for my life. In one future, I could try earning His acceptance and that of those around me. It was a future where I did what I wanted, made my own way, and clothed myself with my own ideal of nobility and honor. I would come to the Day of Judgment with nothing to show for myself but the dead skin of deeds performed from a life of emptiness, selfishness, pride, false humility, and self-righteousness.
Or another future. A future where I trusted in the Lord for forgiveness, right standing with Him, and acceptance into His glorious Kingdom. A future where He gave me clothes to wear that He had washed Himself. I would wear glorious raiment washed white as snow by the blood of the Holy Lamb of God. This would be a future where He would give me His own name, call me His friend, give me the inheritance of a dear and beloved son. A future where He provided me with the wisdom and strength that I would need to run the race set before me, a race where the prize is peace, joy, and love. I would still have my place in this life—and a home prepared in advance by Him for the next life, there in the Kingdom of Light. A place in His house, for me.
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10 NIV)