Don’t Forget to Dream

By October 29, 2009 culture, language No Comments

Breath for the Bones Book Club—Thoughts on Chapter 5

In a recent post by Gordon Atkinson on High Calling Blogs, Gordon tells us of Gabi, whose achingly beautiful vision to serve God by loving kids in Uganda is enough to rouse the most callous of hearts. After hearing just a bit of Gabi’s vision, I too, like Gordon, am left wondering about the smallness of my own life, not just in terms of accomplishing and doing, but also in the dreaming.

Dreaming is a form of imagination: It engages the heart and mind with a vision of what could be. There is great value in the heart’s breaking and longing of something grand for the glory of God and the love of others.

Sadly, dreaming and imagination are often the practices of youth. As most grownups do, I have neglected my imagination in favor of the practicality and probability that floats upon the calm waters of likelihood.

But Luci Shaw calls upon the necessity of imagination in the creative life in “Celebrating Imagination,” chapter 5 of Breath for the Bones. She says that “not only is imagination helpful to us as observers and interpreters of life, it is an essential part of the creative act that brings life into focus for us” (Shaw 72).

To bring life into focus, imagination (dreaming) is necessary. They are hope embodied. So God uses imagination and dreaming (that He embedded within us) to coax our eyes to see and our ears to hear what is just beyond this earthly existence.

In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul reminds us why it is safe to hope:

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” —Ephesians 3:20–21

If God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all I can ask or think, shouldn’t I have some very lofty requests and thoughts? God created us with these abilities—certainly we cannot out-ask or out-think God. So why do we hold back? Why don’t we live large for God’s name? Why aren’t there more dreamers like Gabi in the world?

Why do we forget to dream?

Some Christians are leery of taking God at His Word in the asking and thinking beyond what is practical, fearing we might look to God as our magic wish machine. Shaw soothes such worries with the caution that our imaginations must first be “properly exercised” (65) to be useful and in step with God’s purposes—think trained and tethered to the Spirit. Here she also applies C. S. Lewis’s phrase “baptized imagination.”

With dreaming and imaginations aligned with God’s purposes and ways, we are free to let our asking and thinking rise to the clouds. And just as God coaxed me into the broad pasture of wild dreams, so I am to coax others there through the words God places in my heart and soul.

And what of the dreams that whisper to our hearts—the dream to help a neighbor, a troubled teen, a struggling widow, a run-down neighborhood, a starving country . . . what do we do with these inklings of the extraordinary?

We nurture them. We take them to God and ask Him to refine and purify the dream and our very hearts as well, so that all might be to His glory. We take steps forward, steps back. We pray and pray. We wait. We get counsel. We adjust our lives for something bigger than ourselves. And then we dream some more.

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