The other night I had this one that was a telling of a tale. It felt like I was in the presence of something Mythic, surpassing generations; as if Joseph Campbell himself were writing the chapter. What is even crazier is that it was as if God was laying out a picture of my soul in a way so detailed and specific that I had no chance of missing it. Here is the gist of it:
There once were two men.
One man was a Man of the Wild Animals. He was nomadic, and lived in the presence of untamed beasts. They were not a threat to him. In fact, they obeyed him and were in an intimacy with him that allowed them to be free and wild, intelligent and alive. This man was confident and fearless, akin to how things were with Adam. He was comfortable in his skin, whole.
The other man was a Settled Shepherd. He lived in a camp of his making at the base of the mountains. He had become old before his age, was gruff with bitterness. His sheep were blank, unintelligent animals that had no life or freedom and did what ever he asked because they were afraid, or just didn’t know any better.
One night, dark as ink, the Man of the Wild came within sight of the Settled Shepherd’s fire. The Shepherd approached the edge of his camp and asked what the Man of the Wild wanted. To which, the Man of the Wild asked if he might camp with him for the night.
The Settled Shepherd knew of this man and his animals. In his response, he was near rude and obviously frightened, as he said, “NO! Your beasts scare me because they are untamed and free. I do not want you and that kind of uncertainty in my camp.”
The Man of the Wild turned and headed back into the night with his friends all around him. He was sad and began to weep for the Settled Shepherd. He could see the utter despair behind the facade.
The Settled Shepherd was so afraid of the Man of the Wild that he could not admit to his despair over what he had become and how weary and fractured he felt. He went back to his campfire and sat stunned, then sobbing at his despair; wondering why he was unable to let the other Man into his camp. He could tell the Man of the Wild was whole and free and strong in his own skin. He wanted to be like that too, but had somehow lost the ability to move in that direction. Thus, the despair. He was incapable of changing his situation alone and yet his fear and despair kept him isolated amongst dumb, bland animals.
The Man of the Wild hadn’t always been this way. He once was a boy, just 19, when he started into the forest after the Man he knew he had to follow; this Jesus. He recalls that day well. Loaded with musical instruments on his back – for he thought he was going to be a musician – he started off with the Man. But not too far into the woods, he was losing sight of the Man because the branches and twigs would catch hold of the instruments. He would become snagged. Wrestling free the instruments took time and as soon as one was free he took a step, and another would get snagged.
At one point he became so entangled he couldn’t move. This was when the Man came back to him and said, “If you want to keep following me you will have to lose the instruments, put them aside.”
At first this saddened the boy because he was so hoping and counting on being a musician. But deep in his soul he knew musician or not, he wanted to keep going into the forest with the Man. So, he took them off one-by-one and set them aside. Once they were all off, he was surprised to find himself completely naked. Only, in this nudity he was not ashamed but felt free. It was then, he could move forward through the trees and brush without a hitch. He followed the Man into the forest and never looked back.
A bit Cain and Able –ish, I admit. (But their story is our story, too.) The last part about the boy at 19 – yeah that was actually another dream I had my freshman year at SMU when I was pursuing a music degree. When I awoke from that one I stopped playing live shows, decided to take a year off from school and eventually became an English major at CU.
I could go into details of what I think what is and who is what and all that. The gist of it is that the two men are me. I am more the crazy one with the animals than the despairing one with the sheep – stupid sheep – but God seems to be telling me they are both a part of my soul. In the dream, my perspective was from the Man of the Wild, seeing with his eyes.
It is quite profound, though, that the boy at 19 has become this crazy guy. When I was chewing over all this, it was clear as a bell from God about where that guy came from…. And strangely encouraging.
All of it feels like God has laid out some mythic “heads-up.” My part is simply to listen.
Oh the stories that are told to our souls when we sleep.