Our dreams are fiddling and fickle. They’re also small, like gains of dusty sand on a vast shore. No offense. I’m not trying to belittle you (or myself, for that matter). You may have some “respectable” dreams in the world’s eyes, maybe even some respectable dreams in the eyes of the church. But they’re probably not good enough. God probably wants more for you.
Me-Now, the Blind One
The way dreams often work is that we look at where we are now and imagine where we want to be. I’ve read some personal growth books that suggest precisely this. “Imagine that you’ve just had the best year of your life,” writes one author. “Describe it.” Then you go about building a plan to get there. The me-now chases after the me-then.
Here’s the problem: me-now is legally blind. Spiritually speaking, I can just barely see my hand when it’s three inches from my face. I don’t even know what’s worthy of dreams, not in comparison to God.
I’ll give you an example. I LOVE to write. It’s my passion, my calling; it’s how I process the world and grow in it. Me-now stares into the future and says, “Set me and my family up with a cabin in the woods, where I can spend my mornings reading and writing, and my afternoons growing into the husband and father God wants me to be.” That’s the dream of me-now. Stare at that long enough and the wonder wears off. It’s a rain puddle of a dream. Where are the other people? Where’s the church? Where are the encounters and the unexpected events that end up defining us? Where are the mysteries that water the meanings of life? Absent. This is the dream of spiritual blind man. It’s short, thin, and . . . well, foolish.
Why the Blindness?
Why is me-now spiritually blind? The short answer: because he still believes lies, and he trusts himself more than his maker.
What are the lies me-now believes? There are really only three basic lies that follow us around everywhere. They put on different clothes, but their bodies are the same: Who is God? Who are we? How should we live? Here’s John Mark Comer:
We ask, “Who is God? What is he like? Can I trust him?”
The devil lies: He’s an unloving, jealous tyrant who is holding out on you. You can’t trust him.
We ask, “Who are we? What does it mean to be human? Am I just an animal or something more?
He lies again: You’re not just a human being with a place in an ordered cosmos over the creation but still under the Creator. No, you can transgress your limitations and become whoever and whatever you want. Identity is self-defined. Morality is self-determined. Take control of your own life. “You will be like God.”
And we ask, “How do we live? What is the good life? How do I live it?”
Here the devil’s lies are most salient: You can’t trust God, but you can trust yourself, your own wisdom and desires. Look at this bright, shiny thing–this tree that God said was off limits. Eat it, take it, seize it, do it, experience it. Follow your heart.
John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, 65.
Put this in the context of your own dreams. I’ll do it for mine. Who is God? “Well, I know he’s good and all-knowing, but he also has all the glory. And why isn’t he giving any to me? Either he wants it for himself, or he wants to give it to some other writer. Either way, that glory isn’t coming my way. From where I sit (me-now), I can’t trust him to help me be a ‘successful writer’ (whatever that means). Can I really trust him with my dreams? No.”
Who am I? “For all practical purposes, I’m leading the charge of my own life. I’m gonna develop a five-step plan to success. Step aside, Annie Dillard; a new Pulitzer powerhouse is coming through.” God, it sounds so embarrassing when I type it out. But that’s what’s inside me-now. I’m still delirious enough, after decades of being a Christian, to think that I’m in control of my own life.
And now for the last lie. How do I live the good life? “I’ve gotta go get it! No one’s gonna hand it to me. I’ve gotta fight like crazy to hold onto my dream with white knuckles, and kick or scratch anyone who threatens to take it from me! My carpe diem takes no prisoners. It’s either me or them. I’m choosing me.” Is it possible to blush in print? I think so. I’m doing it right now.
Do you see the lies? We’re spiritually blind because we believe lies. The truth is mysterious, contrary to those bent on expunging all mystery from it. The truth is a person (John 14:6); the truth is Lord; the truth directs you. The truth meets me-now and blows his mind. Jesus Christ, as he always does, shows up to tell me that there’s more in store for me than my little mind can imagine.
The more God has for me is both defined and mysterious. How is it defined? It’s clearly set out in Scripture. Are you ready? God wants me to be more like him. That’s Romans 8:29. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The more God wants for all of us is to look strikingly like Jesus Christ.
While that’s defined, it’s also mysterious. What’s that going to look like for me? For you? For your mother-in-law? For your son or daughter? How am I going to look more like Jesus as a writer, as a husband, as a father, as a friend? And how am I going to do that in a way that retains my uniqueness? We’re not all bound to become Jesus-robots, after all, a tract of mechanical foot-washers. We’ll all look like Jesus while simultaneously looking like the unique creatures God made us to be. That’s full of mystery, isn’t it?
How Then Do We Dream?
If me-now is legally blind and chases after lies, how am I supposed to dream? I mean, how am I supposed to dream biblically? Well, it means doing something we hate doing, something that seems anathema to our culture’s make-your-own-self moto: We have to . . . (get ready to cringe) submit to the Lordship of Christ. This is a daily exercise, not some abstract idea that floats above us.
Again, an example would help. As a writer, everyday I’m confronted with the lies of the world, lies about who God is, who I am, and what I need to do to make my dreams (should I even use the possessive?) a reality. These lies always seek to make me the functional lord of my life. And that’s going to lead to shallow dreams. Throughout the day, I’ll be enticed to grab those lies, like gourmet chocolates at a crowded party. “Oh, look! He just made the NY Times bestseller list. How can I do that? I know! I’ll . . .” Nope. Don’t do it, me-now. Stop trying to be lord of your little life. Christ has bigger and better things in store for you than your tiny brain can imagine. Choose to trust him, rather than your legally blind eyesight.
“Oh, look! He’s writing full-time and spending even more time with his family than ever before, becoming a better husband, a better dad, a better human. I can do that too! All I need to do is . . .” Nope. Don’t do it, me-now. Don’t go there. The truth (John 14:6) has something even better than that. You just can’t see it . . . with your spiritual blindness and tiny brain. Trust that God knows you, and he knows all. He’s in control and wants you to be faithful right where you are. That always means serving others rather than serving yourself. Because that’s what God did all the time in Jesus Christ.
God wants more for me than I can fathom. He wants more for you, too. He wants to make you mysteriously more like himself, more like Christ. The key to dreaming biblically is trust. And that trust often means denying the validity or even feasibility of the little dreams you can come up with for yourself.
We dream too small. Better to leave the dreaming to the God who spoke matter into motion. He’s worthy of trust. And his wild providence will lead us to places our dreams could never reach.
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