The year was 2000. I’d recently completed John Paul Jackson’s 101 course: The Art of Hearing God. I was just settling in for John Paul’s 201 course: Understanding Dreams and Visions. Unlike the 101 course, this new course on dream interpretation was very challenging. I didn’t automatically accept the stance that God has a universal dream symbol language that, if we could only find the answer key, would help us to interpret many if not most of our revelatory dreams.
NOTE: I deeply respect John Paul Jackson, both as a person and as a follower of Jesus. This article is in no way a rebuke of his ministry or approach. I don’t know what to do with dream interpretation outside of immediate inspired “knowing”. I’m sharing these thoughts with you on the off chance that they’ll matter to someone else as well.
Universal Symbols Don’t Make Sense to Me
This concept of a universal dream codex doesn’t make sense to me. If the Creator of the Universe were truly so straightforward and consistent throughout time and space, then we would see far more consistent examples of revelation in Scripture. But the truth is, we see that God varies his approach all the time. Jesus spits in the dirt and rubs it on one guy. He doesn’t even see a person he heals from long distance. He tells a leper to go get checked and he’s healed along the way. He casts demons into swine. He speaks to Elijah and Moses on a mountain top. He breaks bread and fish and after blessing they feed a multitude. Ezekiel walks around naked. Hosea marries a prostitue. Daniel fasts and prays. Moses turns a staff into a snake. The pillar of fire and cloud follows the people for one generation. The Red Sea parts. The king’s mind is turned into a wild animal. On and on it goes. There are so many unique and creative expressions of revelation and power.
So why would a dream about a car ALWAYS mean a person’s ministry? Why would Snakes, spiders, loose teeth, underground, rainbows, and lions always hold the same meaning? In one culture an insect is a pest, while in another culture it is a primary source of food. In one culture rain is a deliverance from drought. In another culture, rain is a never ending onslaught.
I don’t hear all people prophesy the same way. The words filter through their personalities and historical contexts. Why wouldn’t dream symbolism do the same? If God truly wants to communicate to us, why wouldn’t he use culture-specific and person-specific symbols so that we don’t waste half to all of our live searching for the 3-4 people who cracked the code?
I’m not here to crash all the dream dictionaries and laminated key cards out there, because I simply don’t know what to think about them. I’ve used some of them. I’ve applied the symbols to my own dreams and they simply never resonated with me.
I hope that this topic generates a conversation. If you have found dream dictionaries and universal key cards to be deeply meaningful and helpful in your dream interpretating process, I’d like to hear from you. As with all things, we hear in part and we see in part. Our parts need each other.