passion, direction, and dreaming

From my earliest memories I have been a dreamer. If I could choose a time in which to plant myself it would be the future. My dreams have always been in a futuristic setting. Maybe this is because I grew up in the age of possibility. I was around 8 years old when Neil Armstrong and his crew landed on the moon. It was a hot summer night and I listened to his crackly voice announce “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I was in my bedroom – at least half of my body was. The other half was stretched into the hallway straining to get a glimpse of our television without having my parents see that I was not asleep. How could anyone sleep when the moon was being explored for the first time?

I spent some years living on Air Force bases. My dad, a B-52 pilot, was stationed at Dyess Air Force Base from 1968-1973. We lived on base for some of those years. I can remember listening to the huge turbine engines wind up and down on the runway – less than a mile from our home. There was something comforting about the sound those airplanes made. Watching them take off, heavy bodies more graceful in air than parked, filled me with a sense of freedom. I wanted to fly when I was a kid – as in like a bird. My favorite dreams were flying dreams. What a huge sense of disillusionment I felt on waking up to only to discover that I had dreamed something that was, in my waking world, an impossibility.

Early on I think I connected dreaming (day and night) with two very powerful feelings: longing and disappointment. It is with those two feelings that I have had a long and ambivalent relationship. You see, I have an imagination that longs to soar but often feels grounded in a reality that sets arbitrary and confining limits. “You can be anything you want to be” is tethered to a practical, safety-seeking self who makes real the not possible and sets conditions on the extent to which dreaming has value. At some point I tell myself that I am wasting my time, dreaming – it’s a form of meaningless play. It feels self-indulgent and reckless.

What are my dreams? Like clouds passing high above me during a Texas springtime, they are objects to be admired and studied with no possibility of real meeting. I watched a movie version of Peter Pan not long ago and felt the familiar pang of longing as I watched him sail with playful agility among the clouds. He owns the sky.

And yet I do not long to be Peter Pan. Eternal youth has never been my dream (thankfully at this stage of life I can clearly distinguish between sheer fantasy and face-in-the-mirror reality). I do not long to be limitless and I do not long to be somewhere else.

I long to be connected, plugged in, in love with living and fearless about dreaming. One might think I am going about things all backwards. Wouldn't he want to be closer to God - for in doing so, he would have what he longs for. And this is where the idea of the "journey from" gets a little complicated. I do not equate the journey from God as equal to getting away from Him - though I admit I have had to put a healthy distance between the church and me. The journey from God is (for me) equal to the struggle to be fully engaged with the life I have - not the life I hope to enjoy someday. A futurist like myself has the greatest difficulty with the here and now - precisely because the here and now is something I have always equated with being tethered, limited, and longing for the next thing.

Everyone has his/her own challenge and task. For others, the here and now is reassuring and comforting. My challenge and task, the cutting edge of God's work in my life, is to restory the here and now in such a way as to give meaningful directions to my passion and serious attention to my dreams. This means I must hope less in what He will do for me someday and hope more in what we are doing together right now. I say we because He has His work and I have mine. We are partners joined in time and separated by space. Together we are writing a modern gospel. My part reveals the hope and struggle of this pilgrim to take hold of the present and embrace it fully. His part reveals the mysterious and sometimes haunting ways in which His grace and mercy touch the most skeptical and tired parts of my soul with healing ahas.

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