The Secret Basement
Just before I woke up this morning I had a very vivid dream that caused me to wonder if it has some special meaning or was just a strange collection of memories and make-believe.
In my dream I was walking with my children (who were back very young again) and my wife past the back of the church I currently attend. This is the same church where I went all the way through elementary school with my friends growing up.
As we started to leave that side of the church to go on down the street, I noticed an old rotting wooden opening in the foundation about three to four feet square. Somehow I felt that people wanted me to repair it (that can happen in dreams without needing explanations) but I did not want to bother with it. However, curiosity caused me to want to see what was inside the hole so I pushed away some of the rotting boards and squeezed through the small opening against protestations of my wife.
As I entered the opening I was met with a nearly solid wall of cobwebs covering the entranceway just inside that was very difficult to get past without getting tangled up in them. The cobwebs got caught on my head and body as I tried to carefully sweep them away and I kept getting stuck in them. But I persisted and finally got loose from the cobwebs to move farther into what appeared to be a room or hallway in what I later figured out to be an abandoned basement area under the church.
My curiosity increased as I pushed further inside and began to discover that the area was much bigger than could ever be imagined from the outside. It even seemed quite illogical as far as the room available between the building and the street next to it. But as I explored further I found room after room full of dust, cobwebs and in disarray. But it was becoming apparent that these rooms had once been classrooms still filled with old furnishings. My excitement increased as I began to realize that if this was all cleaned up it could dramatically add to the square footage of our local church.
I kept pushing on down the hallway peering into room after room with increasing amazement. The floors appeared to slope a little in places but not too bad. My mind kept thinking about what this might look like if invested with enough time and attention and cleaning. Then I found another hallway connecting at the front corner that had a ceiling that obviously had been closed in years ago from overhead sealing it off from the main part of the sanctuary.
I could see in this landing where there had probably been stairs many years ago connecting this whole level with the church above but had been forgotten long ago. Instead, it now just connected back with yet another hallway going back toward where I had come in with yet more rooms off of this hallway. As I moved down this corridor and continued to explore room after room I found even more amazing things covered with layers of dust and some debris. I found old pianos still sitting in some of the rooms and tried one of them to see if they even played at all anymore. To my amazement they still resonated notes even though they were somewhat out of tune. This was surprising to me given that they hadn't been touched in possibly decades and had been sitting in what I assumed to be a damp, dark basement the whole time.
I then noticed that some of these rooms had furniture, like couches and even a few efficiency apartment type furnishings. This aroused my curiosity even more. Whatever would be the purpose of having bedrooms and living rooms built into the basement of a church? For visitors who needed a temporary place to stay? For pastors passing through or for something else?
I wanted to see more closely some of the old furniture. I began to sense that there were a great deal of potentially very valuable things just sitting out of sight in this abandoned, sealed off basement that nobody knew anything about. This seemed both exciting and mysterious in a way. But while I was eager to explore more of this exciting find, I seemed to hear people protest that most of these things could not be salvaged because the basement probably had water leaking into it at times which would produce rot and mold and would have long since ruined everything.
But as I looked more closely I could not find obvious dampness on the floor even though it appeared that it could maybe happen. I was not convinced that all of these rooms should simply be ignored and walk away from what was becoming to my mind an incredible potential for a dramatic improvement of my church.
As I neared the old doorway where I had come in I looked into one last room which clearly appeared to be something like an apartment with even a small kitchen built in. At this point I was trying to figure out how such a large complex with so many rooms could remain so well hidden from everyone right here under our noses. As I curiously poked around to see the furnishings and layout of this last room I began to sense that maybe this room might not be so abandoned as the rest of what I had explored already. I was right. Suddenly a Hispanic-looking woman appeared from a back room and greeted me with some surprise. I then realized that she was actually living in this apartment and had been quietly residing there for some time unnoticed by anyone else in the church. (Anything can happen in dreams)
I left the basement which by then I had calculated might be as much as two to three times the square footage of our current building and must be located right next to the existing basement that everyone else knew about. My head was spinning with what to make of all of this. I was stunned at the enormous potential of what we could do if we would just be willing to work together to open this area up, reconnect it with the upstairs, spend the time and effort to clean and restore all the rooms to their intended use and maybe even rent out the efficiency apartments to those who needed temporary housing.
But I kept hearing protestations of my wife trying to remind me of all the difficulties involved and encouraging me to just leave it alone. I felt the internal conflict between my own curiosity and imagination being stirred by what I had seen and the logical protests of those who felt it was just too much bother. As I continued to ponder this, I woke up and realized that this dream had been unusually vivid. It seemed like the kind of dream that might have some important significance but it didn't really make much sense to me. I knew that it was nearly impossible that this dream could be true physically in the actual church building. So what might this dream mean if anything? It just seemed too intense to just pass off as a funny dream that I should quickly dismiss. In fact, I felt compelled to get up and try to record as much of it as I could recall as soon as possible before too many details faded from my memory.
And why did it seem that my wife kept resisting everything all through the dream? This is actually uncharacteristic of her, but in the dream she kept wanting to press on with our family walk and finding all sorts of difficulties in the basement to point out to me to discourage me from looking at it.
I turned to God in my mind and asked Him to show me what this dream might mean for me. The first thing I sensed was something suggesting that the complaints and emotional resistance that I observed from my wife in the dream were similar to the attitudes that God sees in me too often by my complaints and criticisms about the church.
Then I sensed something that seemed to suggest that the emotions I was feeling as I explored room after room in this abandoned basement with increasing excitement about the enormous unused potential was maybe the way that God sees the people in my church and in the community around it. There are many hidden talents going unnoticed and unused because we are so stuck in our traditional ways of doing things and the rigid rules we follow in our organizations. Somehow in our minds, church members like me along with leaders have sealed off from the local church whole arenas of resources and possibilities that we ignore for various reasons. We may be unaware of great potential right under our noses because of decisions and attitudes that have become so long entrenched in our thinking that we don't even know these opportunities exist anymore. We have gotten stuck in a very small but familiar box in the way we think and the way we “do” church.
And yet there still actually exists these hidden resources in place all around even though we fail to appreciate them. And possibly, like the woman living in the apartment unnoticed by local church members, some of these resources are possibly being utilized by someone else without our awareness. If we could only have our attitudes adjusted, our minds opened and our hearts softened to be willing to view others through heaven's eyes and to see as God sees, we might realize that there are tremendous resources far larger than our present facilities either physically or spiritually. We may plodding on in our spiritual blindness stuck in the small box of our narrow perceptions of reality where we currently function because we focus more on the difficulties instead of on God's abilities and power.
I began to feel the conviction hitting me personally. I have to admit that I have dwelt too often on the difficulties and the faults of others more than the possibilities and potential from God's viewpoint. I too often fail to see beyond the externals where there may well be vast existing resources in people's hearts and lives and even in the surrounding community that only heaven can see at this point in time. And because of my attitude of unbelief in God's abilities to transform people's lives along with my own discontented spirit, I have also contributed to keeping the barriers in place blocking these potential resources and the floors of our current views carpeted but small just like many around me.
I suspect that all of us have ignored the rotting doorway into this hidden complex or have even agitated to have it sealed over so it won't be such an external eyesore for the church. We have failed to step inside and push past obstacles that seem disgusting in order to discover the many blessings and opportunities and resources hiding behind all those cobwebs.
I still don't know if I really understand this dream. Maybe there is still much more to hear from God about this. Either way, I want Him to cleanse me of my own critical spirit of dwelling on the faults of others and to heal my own heart's dim eyesight so that I can see more clearly the true body of Christ locally as God sees it and share His passion and excitement at what yet could happen if we would only utilize these hidden opportunities by cherishing the disposition and the faith of Jesus.