I dreamt something pretty on my walk yesterday.
I dreamt that in this next year I had made it closer to the Promised Land than I’d ever been before. And I discovered that almost nothing in my life had changed. My paychecks weren’t fatter, student loans and hospital bills still leeched to my budget like wood-ticks, and I still hadn’t made anything to make the world pause.
* But, somewhere between now and the dream I dreamt, I had found an inner life that didn’t need to be constantly propped up by the latest atta-boy and couldn’t be touched by the late great disappointment.
I’d learn to cry ugly, snot-stained tears because I wasn’t afraid the tears were admitting the whole thing to be a tragedy.
I had resigned from image-management, not because I was bad at it, but because I was so good that it betrayed all the ways I was hopelessly flawed and incomplete apart from grace, betrayed all my longing to be found by you and for you.
I had learned to crave a world set aright with the same effortless commitment with which I craved pizza and beer.
I’d learned not to keep a record of wrongs, because in a eucatastrophe all my wrongs had been tossed as far as east from west.
I had longed for deep character for so long I’d begun to see the very character of Christ. I felt compelled to something deeper than scratching the rashes of old anger, deeper still than the absence of conflict, about as deep as hard-fought peace.
In this dream, I’d come to believe that God was Father, that this was my Father’s world, that my Father was making all things new, reclaiming and refashioning the broken things, that I’d learned to call this kingdom come, that this reality was somehow more real than the ‘real world’ to which we’d all come to resign ourselves, that it was always hidden enough to ignore but always apparent enough to hope against hope.
And since I was dreaming anyways, that kingdom life took hold everywhere. If I didn’t stick with you like a brother, I couldn’t call God a Father. If my goodness wasn’t seen, it was still goodness, perhaps moreso.
I treasured something—please, anything—more than the convenience that I could purchase with a 5% discount at Target.
I gave you what I could and had the courage to name what I needed to be given, even if it meant asking God, even if it meant asking you. I believed that sometimes God would give you something real delightful just ‘cause you kept asking, just cause God was a Father that wasn’t about to be bested.
But when stuff hit the fan, that’s when you’d see that I’d really made it to the Promised Land. Because nothing could touch the life I’d found, because nothing touched the words of the man who taught the best nouns and lived the best verbs, because nothing could undo the mystery of this God-become-human, this God-become-vulnerable, this God-become-nothing, this God-become-wilderness so I could hold a glimpse inside of the Promised Land to come.
‘Getting’ dreams aren’t so bad. Some day, I’d like to live on 5 acres and make enough money to drive a car that doesn't piss out coolant every time I turn it over. ‘Achieving’ dreams aren’t so bad either. Some day, I’d like to write for a consistent enough stretch of time that I publish something of note.
But in this new year, I hope we’ll see that getting and achieving don’t take us where we need to go, nor even where we want to go, that a blank check to change your situation would address, um, about 3.5% of what you really long for.
And I pray you’ll dream ‘becoming’ dreams,
stupid dreams like becoming the kind of person who never misses joy when it’s smacking her face,
stupid dreams like becoming the kind of person who always has enough time when love decides it wants to walk among him,
stupid dreams like becoming the kind of person who lusts for uprightness and intimacy and delight and for something more than the next time the phone buzzes to titillate you with newness when everywhere around you something and someone is being made terribly and beautifully new
if you’ll just look long and desperate for it.
* The stuff of this becoming dream is a creative interpretation of Jesus' sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7).