I had a very interesting dream the other night. I use the word “interesting” rather than “disturbing” because although while I was dreaming it, I felt very disturbed by it, when I woke up there was no overhanging cloud that sometimes comes attached.
Very simply put, I think I turned into a porcupine.
I was aware that scales were appearing on my arms - hard, flat, patches of armour. There was a ridge of scales down the centre of my arm, the kind you see along the backs of dinosaurs. Little black spikes began sprouting everywhere, sharp and straight.
They – not sure who “they” were – took me into an operating theatre to see if they remove the scales or the spikes. They managed to pull out one of the spikes. It was no more painful than pulling out a hair. They stuck it under a microscope and commented to one another that they had never seen anything like it before.
Removing a scale was much more painful, and almost instinctively I hit out, clouting the doctor with an arms-worth of scales and spikes, sending him rocketing across the room and slamming him into a glass cabinet. I think they were making plans to incarcerate me when I woke up.
There was no mystery for me about what the dream was about, although others might find more interesting interpretations.
The holidays have come to an end and it is back to work. My husband often laments to see me heading back to work. The house that had been kept clean gradually deteriorates into a pig-sty. There are no more cooked meals to greet him when he comes home. He cannot rely on lifts right up to the door of his work place. Then of course, there is the appearance of “Work Mel”. She doesn’t get left behind at the end of a tiring day, but seems to clamber into the car and come home with me. You know when she is around – the voice is pitched a little louder, sharper and she is more inclined to nit-pick and harangue.
Sometimes work can be a very intimidating place. Not everyone there is my friend, and I can react in ways that are very defensive. The prickles are very easily provoked – sometimes.
I had been reading Colossians 3:12 - “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
It didn’t seem to me the most practical advice. I was looking for a riot shield and a baton and Paul was giving me kindness and gentleness.
“You know what, Mel?” said God. “Remember all that stuff about putting on the armour of God? There are times when that is the right thing to do. But supposing you arm yourself mentally with the riot shield and the baton – you are heading into the workplace with the mindset of a warrior in a battlefield. You are expecting to fight. Everyone picks up the vibe that you are armed to the teeth. You have the baton in hand and you are ready to use it. What is their response likely to be? They suddenly drag out their own riot shield and baton to defend themselves. It is kill or be killed. If, however, you were to arrive unarmed – clothed in “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” there is no room for the riot shield and the baton. It is not a doormat mentality where you cease to take authority at all – you just create a different kind of environment to work in. It is far easier to hit someone who is being less than cooperative than it is to show them kindness and patience.”
Some might say that it is just the week-one honeymoon, but they will wear me down eventually. I am not accepting that! I don’t want Work Mel coming home with me. Actually I don’t want Work Mel at all. Work Mel is not who I am, only who I allow the stresses of the workplace to force me to become.
So yes, with God’s help I am clothing myself not with armour but with kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness and patience.