A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Doubting the Dream Weaver

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.[1]

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.

 

 

[1] Keller, Timothy. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (p. 118). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Emphasis added.

 

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2 Comments

  1. As always, I love your honesty! Let’s quit pretending once we become a Christian everything is all roses. We struggle. And sometimes we struggle mightily. Yes, intellectually we know that many times it comes back to our sinful nature being in the wrong. But it doesn’t change the fact that we struggle with frustration as we follow a Powerful Perfect Being who has the power to right all wrongs or lay out our perfect path in front of us, yet He doesn’t. Why not? God! You gave me this dream! Why are you not making all of this work out!!

    I resonate with your post so much, as I too have had a dream for many years that I have not been able to pursue. A couple of years ago, I heard a sermon by Ron Moore (sp?). He told a story that he had been called to be a pastor, and he graduated seminary without finding any church positions open to him. He took a teaching position for 4 years, and was full of anger and frustration until he realized he was worshipping his dream. The dream was good. It was given by God. But it is still not God, and God will not accept less than complete devotion to only Him.

    Abraham had a dream. A God-given dream. It was a dream that he would be the father of many nations and bless the world through his seed. The dream even had a miraculous start, having a child in he and his wife’s old age! Then… God called him to sacrifice that dream. How could that make any sense? God, you gave me this dream, this promise! I’ve built my whole life and my family’s life around this dream. Nothing makes any sense if I sacrifice this dream!! Why God??!!

    And yet, that was God’s will. Of course, we know the rest of the story. But Abraham didn’t. Abraham had to trust. And so do we. I don’t say that easily, because I can’t even describe how difficult it has been for me to pry my own white-knuckled grip off of the dream that I believe He gave me. But I’ve done it. (Done sounds so final, I would say I am continually reminding myself to continually let go of it). Joyfully? No. Reluctantly? Yes. But I think that is when we are proving MOST that our trust in Him is real! We absolutely don’t get it and truth be told we really don’t agree with it! And yet… we follow, because our faith is in HIM and nothing else.

    What else can we do? We must follow the one whom we serve, who gave us the dream. If He is not in it, how could we ever pursue it? We know we don’t want to pursue the dream without Him. But what we want is for Him to want us to have our dream. And letting go of that, letting go of the control, is hard. We grieve it… And we go on trusting.

    • Phil, thanks for “getting it.” You’re so right on “letting go of the control.” He’s a God I can’t control with my own cynicism or moralism (if I obey, I’ll get what I want…). And yet He’s a God whose thoughts are certainly higher than mine, and all of these are deserving of my worship. If only it didn’t hurt so much… You’re completely right: my love for and trust of Him are proved most when I’m in the midst of loss.

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