Once Upon a Time, a man ran away from home. His father sent him on a mission; however, he was running away, and he did not know when or if he would ever see his family again. He was both ashamed and afraid because of what he had done to his old, blind father and older brother. He lost everything – his family, his home, all his possessions, and even the clothes on his back.
It is difficult to say what this man’s outlook on life was when he arrived at this particular place where he spent the night, using the hard ground for a bed and hard rocks for a pillow. We can certainly make some conjectures, however, for this was his ‘rock-bottom.’ There was no place lower for him to go.
Considering his situation, it was amazing that he fell asleep. While sleeping, he had the most transforming dream of his life. In his dream, he saw a ladder that extended from earth to heaven, and the angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it (See Genesis 28:13-22).
In the morning, he woke and exclaimed, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16). That was the turning point of his life. The man who thought he had lost everything now had the revelation that everything he would ever need was right there within his reach as long as his G-d was with him.
Even though he no longer had the material means at that moment to fulfill his father’s command for him to find a wife, he had the will. He found the woman he wanted to marry and fell in love; though he still did not have the means to marry her. But as the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. He made himself a bond slave to the girl’s father, obligating himself to hard labor for seven years. Twenty years later, he accomplished his mission and was able to head toward home a very wealthy man
So what does the story of Jacob’s dream ladder teaches us today? Our lives may not be full of soft, “cushy” pillows. We may even have hit our rocky bottom; however, our story does not have to end there. Here are four elements that we need to regain our footing and move to higher ground:
- A Dream: Everyone needs to dream. No matter how desperate our situation, we need to dream, literally and psychologically, but before we can dream, we need to sleep, to rest. No doubt Jacob barely slept due to his troubles up to this point. That place where he stayed the night was special. Perhaps he knew that he would be safe there. Perhaps he knew that he could lay down the mental weight he was carrying for a little while and get some much needed rest. We can do likewise. We can quiet our minds and allow our spirit to commune with our Creator. We can clear our minds of the clutter of disorganized thoughts to make room for new and fresh ideas.
- A Ladder: The ladder represents both a leg up and a connection with heaven. It is an escalator that allows us to rise above our circumstances, and it is a portal into the world of the metaphysical where visions and ideas have their nebulous beginnings before they can materialize into the physical realm. It is also a connection between the world of matter and the world of Spirit.
- Divine Assistance: Only when we realize and admit how small we are and just how little all our efforts matter in the grand scheme of things, are we ready to accept that there is a much Greater Power to which we can entrust our lives. Accepting that G-d is with us will turn our “nothing” into everything. A little trust in the Creator will turn everything around and set us on an upward trajectory out of the pit.
- The Promise: The promise is what defines our purpose. Not just any promise but the promise of the Higher Authority in which we are trusting. How do we know we can trust in the promise? Well the the promise is only as good as the one who makes it. It is a mistake to try to work without that promise since it provides both direction and momentum, and hope.
- The Vow: The vow is the commitment we make to pursue our purpose. The strength of the commitment is based on how strongly we believe in the integrity of the promise. Once the basis of our faith and trust is established, we can work with the end in mind. Whatever challenges come in between will in no way deter us from attaining the end goal.
There are other useful lessons we can learn from the account of Jacob and the ladder, but those would be for another blog post. We cannot end with the the words, “And he lived happily every after,” because that is not how real life works. However, we can say for certain, “And he [Jacob] lived.” That should be the essence of our dream – to live and not just to exist. Thus, Jacob loved and labored, and as a result, he lived.
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