My posts on dreams kept veering off in a different direction than I wanted them to go. I am unhappy with that, and I remember now why I scrapped writing about it earlier. The subject is too vast, our lives are so varied… And what if we are just plain lazy, so our dreams stay only in a nebulous section of our lives titled “Impossible”? The more I thought about all these qualifiers, the worse it got, until I was too muddled to remember where I actually wanted to go in the first place. Maybe it was because I wrote in third person. You can blame E.B.White for that. He said it is bad style for writers to constantly refer to themselves. “To air one’s views gratuitously is to imply that the demand for them is brisk…” What would he say to bloggers?
But I have thought about it, and I have come back again to what I really wanted to say. Assuming we are talking about children of God here, those who earnestly wish to please him with their lives, especially those who want to change the world, make a difference, share the Gospel…there is much heartfelt desire behind all the cliches. Most times the grand dreams spring up when we are young, inexperienced, but feeling at our core that we should do something. Many of my friends and I did just enough travel, short term missions, volunteer work, that we could never just comfortably sit and claim blissful ignorance about all the things that need to be done. This is a good thing. We have been richer all our lives for the interaction with other cultures and countries. We cannot live a casual American dream without being pricked in our conscience. We understand better the urgency of living counter-culture in an incredibly selfish society. And almost all of us still live right here in America. What is up with that?
This is where I ran into trouble, comparing the ordinariness of my life (sorry, E.B. White, but here we go again) with what I thought would be a better way/place to live it. I had two little boys when I went through this joyless tunnel. “I just feel so stuck, so unproductive,” I would sob to my husband, as I peered down the vista of years of diapers and interruptions and needy, needy people. It was a little difficult for him to understand why I felt like I wasn’t “doing anything.” (This begs the question, what was I thinking it would be like in an orphanage? Had I so soon forgotten the neediness of my school students?)
Quietly, kindly, God showed me a flaw in my youthful dreams, a streak of self-aggrandizement that was going to produce only ugliness. He showed me that I loved projects, neatly finished up and displayed with a happy, “I made this.” My children were not projects, they were people: real, needy, little people. This life, this very place where I was living was His Best for me, and all He was asking of me was faithfulness, the same as if I lived in Mongolia or Malawi. I learned to offer up each task, no matter how menial, to Jesus. It started to sink in, the amazing truth that no offering is too small to please Him, no place too quiet or hidden for Him to see. I learned to simply “do the next thing” in Elisabeth Elliot’s words, but I also found, to my astonishment, that nothing is wasted.
Guess what, the joy was back in life, the sun was shining again! The people were still needing diaper changes and clean clothes and food and endless training and every. day. dying. to. self. I was living my dream, not the way I had imagined, but the way God planned.
That teen- age ideal of living like Hudson Taylor, waiting on God to supply our needs? Well, three years of back-to-school for the family bread winner may have qualified for that one. It was very, very good for us. The dream of going to college for writing and English classes? I don’t know whether that will ever happen, but technology has brought us the blog and such nice readers like you. 🙂 Learning to read Greek/Latin? Not going to happen. Ever. I am not going to tell you the rest of my dreams. You might laugh. 😛
I am not very old, but I have enough years under my belt to see the unmistakable traces of God, directing my way. In the words of one of my favorite poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”