Ever buried a dream?
I suppose this precious concept of dreams is inlaid in most of us as Americans. We’re corn-fed on them from the time we can walk, or at least munch popcorn, mesmerized by the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio: The dream that you wish will come true!
From posters scotch-taped to the walls of the library, to credit card commercials, to career week in sixth grade―we’re in a love affair with doing what you’re made to do.
And why not? From the perspective of my work in Uganda—this level of self-actualization is a privilege; an unspeakable gift. What percentage of the world is physically able to not only seek out and understand how they’re made—and like they say, do what you love so you never work a day in your life?
But honestly? Lately—all these references to dreams make me viscerally cringe. Right now I kind of hate dreams. Or at least talking about them. Yours are fine; I’d love to talk about yours! Just not mine.
To tell the truth, I thought—still think—of God as the great Dream Weaver. I teach my refugee students their gifts are God’s, handcrafted in them as particularly as a fingerprint. I describe with sweeping gestures and radiant face what, somewhere, I still hold white-knuckled: God has such a purpose for you.
Maybe this rankles because I’ve tasted mine, and now the pages of that season are fanning neatly closed, leaving a meaningful portion of my identity to accumulate dust indefinitely. In short—this dream of mine is ending because I need to care for other people more than my dream. I’m Tracy Chapman in “Fast Car”: I had a feeling that I belonged. I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.
And far as I can see, God’s provided no truly tenable way for me to have my fluffy pink “dream” cake and eat it, too. I confess feeling, at times, a hot anger at this. Sometimes, when choosing other people over something as precious and heavy to me as Gollum’s ring on my palm—I feel faceless; anonymous in the hollow cave of my loss.
“Dreams” can often be a lofty, filmy nickname for What I Really, Really Want (Um. No tribute to the Spice Girls intended). When I had children, a season came for me to set a lot of my dreams aside for the sake of another dream: having kids, and—my privileged choice—staying home with them. Call it a value, call it a dream of another fabric. But the “dream” that is love, by definition, offers tremendous freedoms…via setting other dreams aside. Tim Keller writes,
If you want the freedoms that come with being a great musician— the ability to move people with your music and to make a good living for your family— you will have to give up your freedom to do other things in order to practice eight hours a day for years. Freedom is not, then, simply the absence of restrictions, but rather consists of finding the right, liberating restrictions…we must actively take tactical freedom losses in order to receive strategic freedom gains. You grow only as you lose some lower kinds of freedom to gain higher kinds.
Lately I’ve thought about Jesus, perhaps planing some wood quietly over a dirt floor, curls of wood falling over his hands. I wonder if he ever had a dream. Could I just make some good furniture? Find a lovely wife, settle down. Have some crazy kids running around. Maybe avoid capital punishment.
Yet–the guy was the most joyful, the most profoundly happy, that ever lived. Even when he was, we’re told, bearing our sorrows. Properly ordered dreams propelled him to volitionally die to all the rest.
But, I’ve wondered lately, what about what I’m made for? Why is sacrifice right now better than what I’m designed to do?
My friend answered me wisely on this: If God made you for this in 2016—He still will have made you for what you do in 2017.
It’s so easy for my dreams, in all their stealth and sleek beauty, to collect my hopes and my peace in their unmoving, hardening grip; a disordered chaos. The gift becomes the god. That which serves becomes that which demands to be served. And I fall victim to the misconception that my dreams = my happiness. As Donald Whitney writes, One way to clarify your spirituality is to clarify your ambition.
There is no less freedom, I’m realizing, in sacrifice, in choosing the value of love over what I really, really want. And perhaps those particular threads of the Dream-Weaver are the thickest, most vibrant of all—when we lay down the biggest thing we can picture for something, Someone, so much bigger than us.
 Keller, Timothy. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (p. 118). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Emphasis added.