Peter Wilson was a confused young man working as a junior clerk in the local factory. One of the few factories still open amongst the depression, redundancies and business closures everywhere. To have a job, however junior it was, was a treasure in those days where being out of work seemed to be the norm.
One day he called on Father Ignatius in a confused state of mind, "Father, can you spare me a moment please?"
The priest was always approachable and amenable to the needs of his parishioners and invited the young man for a chat in his office.
"Father ..." hesitated Peter, "does God speak to us in dreams?"
The priest waited a moment or two before replying. He had to be careful that what he said was not misunderstood.
"Dreams have been mentioned in the Bible several times," he said, "an Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to abandon Mary but marry her. Also, the Angel warned Joseph to escape to Egypt with the baby Jesus and Mary. And also the wise men were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. I'm sure we can think of other examples. Why do you ask?"
"Well ..." the young man hesitated again, "I've been having these dreams. I'm not sure if it is God talking to me ..."
"We have to be careful not to confuse ourselves into believing that dreams have more meaning than they actually have," Father Ignatius said, "sometimes a dream is just that, a dream. What exactly is troubling you?"
"I keep thinking I should quit my job and go work for a voluntary organisation helping the poor abroad! I've been dreaming it over and over again ..." Peter blurted out.
The priest noted that Peter had relaxed a little. Usually, when we have a weight on our minds we feel that much better when we share it with someone else. Father Ignatius was concerned at what the young man had probably done in a state of immediate action. Quitting one's job was not the wisest move without thinking it through seriously.
"What have you done about these dreams?" he asked tentatively.
"Nothing yet ..." replied Peter. The priest was relieved.
"Good," he continued, "sometimes in life we reach a crossroad and we have to make a decision one way or another. We hesitate. We wait. And delay a decision. Not making a decision is in itself a decision.
"You have done nothing about these dreams!"
"I knew a man a little older than you a few years ago," continued Father Ignatius, "he was in his mid-forties or thereabout. He had a good well-paid job and grown up children. He too felt he should leave his career in business and go work abroad amongst the poor. It was not a dream in his case. Just a feeling. A strong feeling that kept re-occurring. You can't just throw away a good job with a pension just like that.
"He discussed it with his wife and children. He had two children of University age. They were understanding. A good Christian family ... they had a major decision to make. I advised them not to rush into things.
"It took them six months to decide. Eventually, he left his job. He managed to get a year off as a sabbatical. He had an understanding employer as well as a good family. The children said that they'd live at the University anyway so there's no accommodation problems there; and his wife decided to go with him abroad. They stayed there for two years and the children visited them in the summer. He quit his job totally and got a new one when they returned home."
"How lucky they were ..." Peter smiled weekly.
"What I am trying to say," went on Father Ignatius, "is that you are younger, are not married and your situation is different. Often people get feelings or ideas that they should be doing something, or not doing something. In your case it came as a dream, three times you said. When these situations happen we sometimes ask whether it is God speaking or whether it is our own wishful thinking leading us in a certain direction ... perhaps to escape the current situation we may be in which we do not like. Do you understand?"
The young man nodded and said nothing.
"In my experience," said Father Ignatius, "when it is God speaking He makes sure we understand it is God speaking. Perhaps not as dramatically as Paul falling off his horse on the way to Damascus, or Jonah being swallowed by a whale ... but God makes sure we know it is Him all-right!
"My advice, young man," the priest smiled back, "is to do nothing ... or perhaps I should have said pray about it. Pray ... pray and pray some more. I shall be praying too. Wait and see what God does next. If He wants you to work amongst the poor He'll let you know!"
It took Peter ten months to reach a decision. He did quit his job and has worked abroad for six years. He met another volunteer whilst abroad and got married and they're expecting a baby!
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