Seaborn Hall, 8/14/18, updated 8/26/18
Part 1 showed that though there are times when people in our dreams can be literal, most of the time people are symbolic unless the context dictates otherwise. We will discuss what this context is and how to know when people are literal in dreams in a future installment, but since this is the exception rather than the rule in most dreams, we will stick to uncovering the meaning of symbolic people in dreams for the time being.
This counter-play or juxtaposition between people being literal or symbolic in dreams is much like the juxtaposition of interpreting subjectively or objectively. For example, certain Bible verses can be looked at from a subjective or objective viewpoint. For example, take Galatians 2:20 “For I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” The phrase “I live by the faith of the Son of God” can be interpreted two ways, either objectively or subjectively. The Greek words in this phrase allow for two possible interpretations. In Greek this is a choice between something called an ‘Objective Genitive’ or a ‘Subjective Genitive.’
The objective interpretation of the phrase is “I live by faith in the Son of God.” That is, the life I live out now in the flesh I live because I have faith in the Son of God and His death for me on the cross. The subjective interpretation of the phrase is, “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” That is, I live my life because within me I have the same faith that Jesus had when He walked the earth. I have this faith because I have the life of Jesus within me.
Which meaning is correct? Is it faith in or faith of, subjective? Both are true. The verse works equally both ways and both the subjective and objective meaning are true. There is a sense that dreams can work in this same way with a double meaning at the same time. For now we will stay focused on the subjective meaning – people as symbols.
Here is another example of a dream dreamed by a young woman who is struggling with an attack on her mind and her thought-life.
The dreamer, a young woman, is on a mountain with her older sister. Her sister is by a tree. She hears her sister let out a loud cry and rushes to her. Her sister is being attacked in the head by a black snake. The dreamer bends the tree down and grabs the snake and holds it between her two hands, squeezing the head of the snake. She squeezes the head trying to kill it for what seems like 5 minutes. The snake is wrapped up in her sister’s hair and she tries to get it out as she squeezes the snake. Finally, the snake is dead and a watery like substance comes out of its mouth. Her sister has strangely disappeared.
Then the dreamer is walking down towards a lake and she sees her mother in the lake next to a tree. Her mother is skinning the bark off of the tree which is in the lake. She goes to her mother and wades out into the lake, but the closer she tries to get to her mother the deeper the water gets in the lake and the further away her mother appears. She goes out further and further but the water is deeper and deeper until she gets discouraged. She starts to cry. Her mother has disappeared, so she turns back and starts to swim for the shore. End of dream.
Interpretation of the dream:
What does the sister mean? Using Numbers 12:1-8, we should first interpret the sister not as the sister but as a symbol of some kind for the dreamer. Her sister is a part of herself, so it is not her sister who is being attacked, but it is the dreamer who is sustaining an attack on her mind.
The mountain is symbolic for being in the presence of God, for walking with God and being in relationship with Him. Black is symbolic for evil. A snake is symbolic for either deception or lies. The dreamer is being tempted to think a certain way and believe an evil lie or a deception. This is confirmed when the dreamer defeats the snake and her sister disappears. When she has won the victory, the part of her that was struggling with the evil or diseased thoughts ‘disappears.’ This thinking could be temptation or it could be a poor self image that the woman is letting control her behavior. It depends on the person and situation. The snake was tangled up in her sister’s hair, so whatever it was it was affecting the dreamer’s ability to think and reason properly, with wisdom.
What does the mother mean? The mother could also be a part of the dreamer, or she could be symbolic for the Holy Spirit. The mother as a birth giver is a more iconic symbol than most people in dreams. Test whether the mother as Holy Spirit works in the context of your dreams first, then move to other symbolic meanings. At times, the mother can also be symbolic for the creative force or the intuitive voice in someone’s life.
As the Holy Spirit, the ‘mother’ is calling the dreamer into ‘deeper waters,’ that is, into a deeper relationship with God. The dreamer is walking ‘downhill’ because she is struggling with the growth aspect of her life – the attacks on her thought-life – as she approaches the lake and her mother. The tree in this half of the dream represents the dreamer, as it did in the first half of the dream as well. In the first half of the dream, there was a dual symbol for self, the sister and the tree.
Notice how in the first half of the dream the dreamer had to reach up and bend down the tree to rescue her sister (her self) from the snake. This may be symbolic for reaching out to God or reaching out to someone else for prayer or help. It may also be symbolic for the dreamer bringing the broken or separate parts of herself together by her victory in the struggle. Either way it is an expression of the humility needed to be victorious over the snake. It is not just something we do by ourselves.
Here, in the second half of the dream, the mother is skinning the tree, symbolic for the refining or purifying activity of the Holy Spirit. It is John 15, if you abide in me I will refine you so that you will bear more fruit. This is the work of the maturity that God does, through the Holy Spirit, in all believers that He leads into more maturity and greater fruitfulness. The dreamer’s crying may be symbolic for the stress or the trauma of the season that she is in. The mother as Holy Spirit is also confirmed when the mother disappears as the dreamer moves into deeper waters. When the believer responds to the Holy Spirit in a positive way the work of purifying and refining is done. You get to move on to a new season.
This is congruent with the dreamer swimming back for shore where she can ‘stand.’ The dreamer in maturity begins to recognize that there is effort required to move into the maturity of the Christian life and relationship with God and that she needs to learn to ‘stand.’ As Ephesians 6 says, we are to stand against the schemes of the enemy when he attacks us.
When the dreamer moves into the deep waters of a stronger more consistent relationship with God and takes her problems to Him consistently, then the season of refining will past and the broken parts of herself will begin to merge. She will move into a new season and begin to stand strong in her new identity.