I had a dream…
In this dream, I found myself standing in some buffet-style, no-name, fast-food restaurant located in some run-of-the-mill, no-name strip mall. The atmosphere felt sterile and spiritually dead, and I felt joyless and heartsick just being there.
The restaurant was filled with many bare tables and uncomfortable, plastic chairs. The meager buffet was located along the very back wall. Near one end of the buffet was a short hallway leading to restrooms and an unlocked exit used by employees.
It was late afternoon. There were only a few stragglers left, still eating their lunch off of flimsy, paper plates. My brother walked up to me and reported that he had just witnessed a man and a woman walk out the back door with plates of food. Just then I realized that my brother and I were employees, and that I bore the burden of a manager.
I sighed. I was troubled. In my spirit I knew that, as a manager, I must faithfully represent the selfish interests, and enforce the regulations, of my profit-hungry employers. Yet, at the same time, I also knew that they were under tremendous stress because of the high rent demanded by the even-more-greedy owner of the strip mall. I felt both disappointed in them, and sorry for them at the same time.
I then found myself viewing a security monitor as my brother replayed the security tape of the camera that covered the buffet and hallway. Then all at once, I was no longer watching the monitor, but was actually their in the past, standing next to the buffet.
I watched as the couple snuck in through the back door. The young woman’s voice and appearance was very similar to the actress Keri Lynn Pratt. She was only a teenager but had already lived a very troubled life and was now surviving day-to-day on the streets. The young man appeared to be a few years older and also homeless, though new to street life. She was coaching him; teaching him her survival techniques; revealing to him her secrets. They left with their food and went to a nearby, secluded, picnic table meant for use by the employees of an adjoining store.
I sighed again. For them, I felt compassion and heartache. I wanted to just let them go. But, I knew that my hands were tied. I was bound by the terms of my employment. I had to keep my word. I must confront them. I also knew they had not the money to pay. I thought about just paying for their food myself, but I found I had no wallet.
As my brother and I, along with a security officer, approached the picnic table, I saw that the young man was not present, though his plate of food was still there. The young woman stood up, looking concerned. Her back was to a brick wall. The officer moved to the opposite end of the table to prevent her escape. I felt sick.
I asked the young woman where her friend had gone. She said that he went to find a restroom. I then moved closer as I informed her that her theft had been captured on a security camera.
Her face suddenly had a look of intense pain. She fell to the ground, curled up in a ball and began sobbing loudly. I felt her shame and her pain. I hurt for her. I knelt down over her, put my hand gently on her shoulder and spoke softly to her. “If you will just pay now, then I promise you, I will make sure that this all ends here, and you will go free.” But I knew she had not the means; not even a penny to her name. My heart was breaking.
Suddenly, I felt a hope. And, for some reason, I leaned in and whispered in her ear, “I will keep repeating that offer until the very last possible moment.” Then, I gently kissed her hair, and I woke up.
As I laid their thinking, still caught in the swirl of my emotions, I had a very strong sense that this dream stood as a shadow; a kind of metaphor for the real truth; a parable of our spiritual reality.
This woman had no way to pay for her transgression, no matter how much time she was given before being tried, convicted and sentenced. I wanted so badly to help her, but I also could not pay the price for her. If only we would cry out to Jesus, even in the midst of our trouble, before it’s too late, the payment would come. I just know it.
He hurts for us too. He cries with us. He will keep extending to us His hand until the last possible moment. There isn’t much time left. I wish we all would listen. Why won’t we listen?