What are dreams? No, I don’t mean what happens when you sleep– but dreams of what we hope to do, who we hope to be, how we hope to change the world. Hopes. Desires. Ideas. Dreams.
It’s interesting how we can go back and forth on this concept. At Hutchmoot 2012, Phil Vischer spoke on the issue of dreams, specifically what happens when your dream (even a dream you believe came from God) collapses and dies. And just this past week, we had a guest speaker in one of my classes talk about how we need to believe in our dreams and not be swayed by people’s opinions.
We see in Scripture, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” and “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Phil pointed out the fact that in Scripture, unless your “dream” occurs while you are sleeping or in a trance, it’s not a dream from God.
However, we also see, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” and “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Our guest speaker the other day, and countless others, brought up this verse as a reason to dream: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).
What I find difficult about that last Scripture is this– to get the exact right word– “vision”– we have to go back to the King James text. Because if we use any other translation, we get a different meaning. ESV- “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint…” NIV- “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint…” NLT- “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild…” MSG- “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…” (Yes, I know The Message is a paraphrase. But I hope you see my point.) These terms go from the vague “understanding of God’s hand in things” to the specific “prophetic revelation”– but what doesn’t show up is this modern concept of “dream”, that is (as Phil defined the term) “a strong desire” to do or be or make happen.
I have trouble believing that any of my “dreams” are God’s will for my life. Mainly because I have trouble understanding “God’s Will” but also because I have seen what happens when dreams come true (going to Wheaton) and dreams collapse (too many to count)– and in the end, it seems they work out, only by the grace of God.
What I really took from Phil’s talk at Hutchmoot was the importance of Faithfulness. You see, we usually stop quoting Proverbs 29:18 halfway through the verse. Let’s hear the second part in our collage of translations. KJV- “…but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” MSG- “…But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” ESV- “…but blessed is he who keeps the law.” NLT- “…But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” NIV- “…but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”
Keepeth. Attend. Keeps. Obeys. Heeds. These are all ongoing verbs, something that you have to keep doing. When you go swimming in the ocean, you don’t say halfway through, “I swam!” or “I will swim someday” because then you drown because you don’t keep swimming. What it comes down to is faithfulness, obedience, ongoing action, with your failings and successes, your ups and downs, step by step, running and slowing down, staying the course. Truly, this song from Camp Good News firesides has stuck with me through the years… “Faithfulness, Faithfulness, is what I long for / Faithfulness is what I need / Faithfulness, Faithfulness is what you want from me…”
So what does that mean? I don’t know. If you want an expert on faithfulness, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. I am the most random, unfaithful, loopy, irregular, odd dude around– I have trouble keeping schedules, going to bed at the same time, even brushing my teeth (though I promise I’m better these days! Promise!) But it’s something I know I need, so I continually get back on the path.
I was really touched by the story of Jacob wrestling the angel in Genesis, and wrote a short poem on it here, but what I learned from that story is that Jacob kept wrestling. He didn’t just give in– no, he DESIRED the blessing of the angel, and he kept struggling and struggling and didn’t give up. So maybe that’s where dreams come in. You desire something within the lines of goodness and godliness and you struggle and struggle and struggle to get it. And if you get it, you realize that God gave it to you, because you wouldn’t give up. And if you don’t, well, you realize you’re still struggling and God has something else for you.
Then again, I read this quote the other day and thought it was pretty clever…
So you’ve got to have an image of what you want (either form a deep desire or something that God revealed to you, or both) and struggle faithfully for it– and try something new. And that’s hard. Starting a diet. Exercising. Writing. It’s hard to start something new– I think that’s why we like New Year’s Resolutions. It’s such a monumental event, we feel like it will propel us forward to starting new habits, but in the end it’s just another day.
So you need to start struggling faithfully for a dream– but what happens when that dream collapses? Well, it sucks. It just does. But eventually you keep going. I’m not diminishing the pain of a crushed dream– it’s an extreme loss. But eventually there will be something else. No it won’t be the same, but it can be good. Sometimes God leads us to something or takes us from something only to lead us in a new direction. Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his son– and then God veered right and changed Abraham’s direction. He provided a lamb for the sacrifice. Sometimes God takes us through something so we can be in the right place for Him to take us somewhere else. Or sometimes He takes us from something to prevent us from experiencing something worse along the way. I don’t believe it’s all “IN GOD’S WILL” or “OUT OF GOD’S WILL” but I believe that God works in our mess to bring about His good, which is The Good.
So should we dream? Should we have dreams? (Once again, I’m not talking about what happens while you sleep…) Should we strive for something we desire, hope for, or see happening someday? Sure. But in the end, we mustn’t tie down God’s hand to one specific thing. Instead, we must see that God is with us in the every day struggle, He is with us in the faithful ongoing struggle, He is with us in the future, whether or not it is what we expected. We can dream, but the dream should never be the end-all goal– God is our reward, the End which we must pursue.
So let’s dream. What are your dreams? I’m going to write a new post about some of my dreams in the future, entitled Dreams: Part 2. If you’d like to share your own stories or thoughts about Dreams, message me or comment on my Facebook post!
So… without further ado… a little dream playlist…