The Lion Dream

by Andy Wood on October 23, 2009

in Insight, Life Currency, Turning Points

From our Fifth Anniversary Celebration

From our Fifth Anniversary Celebration

Walk inside my office and look to the left, just under the big window.  There you will find one of my most cherished possessions.  It’s an original framed caricature of a lion inside a cardboard box.  It was given to me for Christmas 2003 by two dear friends.  And it’s the kind of thing that when you see it, you know there’s a story behind it.  And if you’re in my office for the first time, as a couple was yesterday, it’s only natural that you would ask about it.

So I thought I’d tell you the story behind it.  This is the story of the Lion Dream.

Early November 2003.  The church I had started has had an adventuresome first year.  We are now in our fourth temporary location.  Attempts to purchase a building from another church have fallen through.  We’re facing a bit of a crisis of direction, looking at the purchase of 20 acres on the bleeding edge of town, and wondering if this is the right decision.

Then came The Lion Dream.

I believe very much that the Lord still speaks through dreams and visions today, and there are some people who have this type of experience all the time.  I don’t.  I can count on two hands, if not one, the number of times I have had an experience like that.  But on this particular morning, I knew I had heard from the Lord in a very vivid dream that took place in four scenes.

Scene 1 – The Pet Store

I am in a small town – Chatom – near where my parents live in Alabama (still not sure what the significance of that is).  In this particular town, (in the dream) there is a pet store.  I walk into the pet store, and the only thing it sells is pet supplies – and lions.  This works out well, because that’s what I am shopping for.  I walk in looking for lions. 

Behind the display glass there are carriers with all kinds of lions.  Big lions.  Medium-sized lions.  Baby lions.  I tell the pet store owner I am shopping for a lion and he asks, “What size lion do you want?” 

“I want a baby,” I reply. 

So I walk out of the pet store with my lion in a cardboard box.  Now this cardboard box is important because it is a fixture throughout the whole dream.  And what’s interesting about the lion is that this is not a cub.  It’s small in stature, but it looks like a full-grown male lion – a miniature.  He has a mane, the fuzzy tail, and can roar.  He’s just little.

Scene 2 – The Restaurant

I take my lion in the cardboard box to a restaurant. I sit the box outside the door.  I figure they wouldn’t appreciate it very much if I brought a lion into the restaurant.  I walk in and sit down and order lunch.  This nice, nameless, faceless waitress takes my order.  

The dream then fast-forwards to the end of lunch and I’m still sitting there alone – the restaurant is completely empty.  Suddenly the thought occurs to me, “What happened to my lion?”  It doesn’t bother me that the cooks and wait staff are gone from the restaurant.  What bothers me is that I’ve been there all this time and don’t know what has happened to the lion.

One of the recurring themes throughout this dream is the fear that somebody could hurt my lion.  He was little, and new.  The other fear I had was that the lion could hurt somebody.  After all, he was a born killer.  But I did notice in this second scene that the waitress was very pleased when she saw the lion.  That’s another theme that ran throughout the dream – anybody who saw my lion was very pleased with it.  They weren’t afraid of it, or disliked it.

Anyway, back at the restaurant, I rush outside and there my lion is – sitting there in the box.  He hasn’t hurt anybody.  He is gentle.  He has all the killing capability of any lion, but he’s sitting there contentedly.  And I remember having this great sense of relief that he is there and OK.

Scene 3:  The Neighborhood

Now I’m in a neighborhood in Lubbock, Texas.  It is a relatively new neighborhood, but mature enough to have sidewalks, trees, and nice new homes in it.  I am with my mother-in-law, and she is going door-to-door for some reason.  I am tagging along with her, with my cardboard box, lion inside.  

I remain out on the sidewalk while she approaches homes.  People who ride by and see the lion are, again, pleased with it.  Moreover, my mother in law is very pleased with the lion. 

Scene 4:  Downtown

I am now in a downtown area.  Not sure where, but it’s a downtown scene I think I have seen before (maybe Albany, NY).  In this scene I am walking with my cardboard box, lion inside.  I don’t see anybody or talk to anybody.  But I still have those same feelings – somebody could hurt my lion, or my lion could hurt somebody.  But again, as people pass by, they express pleasure at the lion.  A few people wave or honk horns or point and smile as they pass us on the sidewalk.

That was the end of the dream.  I woke up.

In the Incubator

It was so real and vivid, that I couldn’t get it off my mind for days.  At first I thought the Lord was dealing with me about me – about my character, courage, or something.  But I couldn’t get over

  • the constant sense of care I had over the lion,
  • the constant sense of concern over the possibility that somebody could hurt the lion or the lion could hurt somebody,
  • the fact that the lion stayed in a cardboard box, or
  • the sense that so many people were pleased with it.

About five days later, I had an “aha” moment while I was riding in the car.  The lion was Turning Point Community Church.  It’s interesting that when the church was born, it wasn’t a cub.  It was essentially mature from our first Sunday, when 215 people showed up for our first worship service.  Since then we’ve seen multiple thousands of people come through our doors.  Some came to “kick the tires while we lit the fires.”  Some came to heal and move on.  Some came to stay and remain to this day.  But from our first day, this church didn’t take on the characteristics of a “church cub.”  It took on the characteristics of a mature body of people.

Images Made Plain

As I continued to meditate on the dream, the Lord spoke to me about several things.

1.  It is right and valid for me to have this sense of care for this lion, because He had entrusted it to me.  He had given you the responsibility of seeing to it that it becomes everything I designed it to be.  And though it may be mature in stature, it still has room to grow.

2.  I had been very concerned with what other people thought of my lion, and He wanted me to know that by and large people are pleased with it.  In our early days we tiptoed around a lot of people.  We tiptoed around some churches.  We tried to be very careful to make a statement that regardless of what anybody said about us, regardless of what heritage anybody else came from, we weren’t formed out of any objections or weren’t the result of a church split.  We weren’t mad at anybody.  We have said from the beginning that we had established the church out of a sense of obedience to the Lord.  Yet from day one I had a sense of nervousness that in moving forward we may hurt somebody’s feelings or raise an objection.  But the encouragement from the Lord was that by and large, the reaction from people was that they were pleased.  That was an encouragement to me.

3.  Another concern I had was that I was walking around with a lion in a cardboard box.  That lion could kill somebody!  That lion was capable of inflicting great pain.  And yet throughout the dream the lion stayed in the box.  It was gentle and good hearted.  And the word from the Lord was, “Andy, you need to understand the heart of your church.  It has great potential power, but it has a good heart.  It is gentle in terms of its relationships with people, and that’s a good thing.”

4.  Another thing the Lord said through this was that I’m walking around with a cardboard box – not exactly the most permanent of homes.  We were “in cardboard” in four different locations.  And the lion did just fine in the box.  Let me remind you, lions weren’t made to live in boxes.  But as long as this lion was in its temporary home, he did OK.  People were pleased with him, and he was nice to people.  In the same way, our church wasn’t made to live in temporary places either.  But as long as we did, the Lord took care of us.  It wasn’t convenient – it was hard work.  But He took care of us as long as we remained in our “cardboard box.”

5.  Here is the ultimate thing the Lord said to me through that dream. 

“Andy, what you have is a lion.  It’s not a canary.  It’s not a kangaroo.  It’s a lion.  It is something I have given birth to in order to exercise spiritual strength, courage, and authority.  I did not give you an antelope to run.  I gave you a lion to roar.  And the destiny of this church is to be a leader among leaders – not in a sense of lording it over others, but in the sense of taking a courageous stand for who I have called you to be in this city and fulfilling its destiny.” 

We don’t live in a cardboard box any more.  But we still have the heart and calling of a lion – albeit a gentle one.  Later I had a sequel – yep, an actual sequel to this dream, and I knew while I was dreaming it that it was a sequel.  Maybe one day soon I’ll tell you about it.

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