Many years ago, I was a young pastor in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Luella and I had two small boys. One day I noticed Ethan playing alone in the backyard, so I went to spend time with my son.
I said, “Ethan, what are you doing out here all by yourself? Do you want somebody to play with?”
Ethan replied, “I’m not by myself, Dad. Joe is with me.”
I looked around the vacant backyard and asked, “Who’s Joe?”
I still remember Ethan’s response all these years later. “My best friend, Dad - Joe Fakeoney.”
Joe Fakeoney, of course, didn’t live in Scranton; Ethan had used his imagination to conjure up this fake best friend in his brain. Even more impressively, Ethan had not only dreamed up Joe, but Joe’s entire family and several other families in this backyard community!
WE’RE ALL DREAMERS
Dreaming isn’t just a thing for preschoolers; you and I are much like little Ethan. God has created every human being with the capacity to dream and imagine. While cats, dogs, and horses live by momentary instinct, those formed in God’s likeness live with values, goals, hopes, and dreams.
Maybe you’re a man and you dream of financial success. You’re tired of having to budget so carefully for your family and you’d like to live in a bigger house in a better neighborhood and send your kids to a better school. You’re best friend recently got a promotion, and you've been spending your nights dreaming of what it would be like to be in his shoes.
Maybe you’re a single woman and you dream of your future family. Your best friend recently got married and now has a newborn, and you've been spending your nights dreaming of what it would be like to be in her shoes.
Maybe you’re a pastor and you want to reach your community, but your church is struggling in giving and attendance. Meanwhile, your best friend from seminary is experiencing rapid church growth, and you've been spending time at night dreaming of what it would be like to be in his shoes.
There are hundreds of these examples, so ask yourself: what's my dream?
THREE DREAM PRINCIPLES
I think it’s very important for us to consider how our everyday dreaming affects our everyday living, so I want to give you three principles that have helped me evaluate my dreams:
1. You Will Dream
Dreaming is part of your humanity. You’ve been hardwired with an ability to desire and to imagine. Your pets don’t envision a family life or a bigger home; they’re happy if someone pets them and feeds them. Human beings, on the other hand, have a soul with desires and a mind with the capacity to dream.
Don’t discourage dreaming, either in yourself or in others. After all, it's the way you were designed! Rather, focus on how you can redeem your dreaming for God's glory and for the good of others.
2. Your Dreams Are Powerful
It’s not inherently sinful to dream and to imagine, but it’s very hard to hold your dreams in place. They will grow, and as they grow, they acquire power and control. Before you know it, if you even know it at all, your dream has taken your heart hostage and now controls who you are.
Your life, and the lives of those around you, can be severely damaged by your pursuit of a dream. I've counseled countless families whose marriages and homes have been crippled by the pursuit of an individual's dream, and they didn't even see it happening.
3. Your Dreams Will Die
There are two elements to this principle. First, your dreams will always be contaminated by selfishness. Even if you're that pastor with a desire to reach your neighborhood for Christ, there will be aspects of your dream that seek to glorify you more than God. If your dream dies, consider that God might be expressing his love for you by killing your dream instead of allowing your dream to kill you.
Second, you live in a fallen world, and things don't operate the way they're supposed to. Even if your dream is righteous and focused on the glory of God, it won't unfold the way you want it to. You're not sovereign; God is, and if your dream does stay alive, it won't be a perfect match with your expectations. Perhaps the reason they call it a dream is because it doesn't exist in reality. If you hold on to your dream so tightly, it's guaranteed to disappoint you.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR DREAMS?
I hope these three principles are helpful as you consider and evaluate the dreams and hopes you have for your life:
- Have you tried to tried to quell your imagination or the imagination of those around you?
- Have you recognized that your dream might be controlling your life more than you think?
- Have you prepared yourself in case your dream does die, or if it has died, are you judging the love of your Heavenly Father?
God wants you to dream, and he's designed you with the ability to dream, but he loves you too much to let you pursue a life-damaging selfish dream. And if your dream does die, God has simply opened up the door for a much better life-giving dream to be born.