The dreams of childhood:
I have always been a dreamer. As a child, I would become so engrossed in daydreams that one teacher, tired of calling my name and getting no response, sent me to have my hearing tested. (My hearing, it turns out, was fine).
I remember imagining myself grown-up, and blissfully employed in useful work. All children play at being adults – and find joy in their make-believe housework or commute to the office. Somewhere along the road, the innocence of hoping and dreaming can turn into a kind of compulsive striving, a mentality of living always in the future. It requires intentionality to cultivate contentment and to recognize the dreams that we are already living in, the gifts we have already been given.
Tricked out of joy
It reminds me of a line from a song that offers up this ironic prayer: “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want, than take what you give that I need” (“Hold Me Jesus” by Rich Mullins, on the album Songs). Too often that describes me. Too often I stand in the midst of great blessing, with a storm-cloud in my heart.
A friend once told me a story about a summer missions trip she took to Africa. She had dreamed and hoped and begged God for such an opportunity for years. But after being there for some time, surrounded continually by people who wanted to give her food and talk with her and touch her, she was desperate to be left alone. So she went outside the village she was visiting and climbed up a high hill where she thought she would spend the afternoon in rest, quietness and blissful solitude. But the children of the village followed her. They joined her at the top of the hill and began singing to her.
“Imagine this,” she said, “One of the most breath-taking locations in the world, a warm breeze, and a woman who has longed to do missions all her life, surrounded by the happy faces of African children, spontaneously singing to her – and she feels only annoyance, even anger.”
Look for the brushstrokes
In reflecting on the matter later she said she felt that this was one of the devil’s favourite tricks; that is, to tempt us in the moments that ought to offer the greatest fulfillment and joy, to focus instead on irritants and to embrace resentment.
I think about this story often, especially now in my work. There are irritants, to be sure, and some of those require consideration and constructive efforts at resolution. But there are also causes for joy. There are also in my life and work brushstrokes of the long-cherished dream, realized.
“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life… Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:8,11, NIV)