I do not dream.
I know that sounds crazy, but it is true, for as long as I can remember I have not awoken the way that some people do with the frost of a dream covering my mind, lacy and white and ephemeral, melting away as wakefulness returns to my brain. For whatever reason, my brain does not trouble my conscious mind with the remnants of the night’s wanderings. I know that I must dream, every now and then a nightmare will rouse me from sleep, how fair is that?
But I know that I do dream, studies say that if you never dreamt, you’d go crazy pretty quickly, I simply do not remember the dreams in the morning.
Never. Except for the occasional nightmare, I pass from asleep to awake with no stops along the way.
But I married someone who has great dreams. Debbie has Hollywood dreams, Robert Ludlum novel dreams; the kind of things where she is like MacGyver, figuring out how to escape from the evil overlord ruling Willets with an iron fist; hey, it’s a dream after all; using only her wits, the foil wrapper from a stick of gum, and the remnants of last night’s Chinese takeout. (Mission Impossible theme)
I think God put Debbie there to let me know what a dream is. How massive a construction project some of them are, with sets and costumes and plot twists galore, the kinds of fantasies that Hollywood needs to keep a jaded America glued to its seat. It also shows me how big a dream can truly be, how much a dream can mean. Debbie shows me that there are dreams that can take you away, and dreams that can bring you home again.
My dreams are of the day variety. I have been daydreaming about this day for all of the days before it and am dreaming still about tomorrow. Maybe this particular day was not in mind, but a day when I would be married, and have a wonderful child, and be happy, those were the dreams of my college years, and the ones that followed. Before that it was all Ferraris and supermodels and the rest of the adolescent fantasies that dreams are made of when you don’t know what life is about. Before that I wanted to be a fireman.
Honesty moment here, that was just manipulative. I never wanted to be a fireman; I wanted to be a nuclear physicist from the time I was about seven. It just sounded cool. We dream about the time to come in whatever language we have available to us. With raging hormones and no sense of consequences, is it any wonder that our adolescents dream of being rock stars and not academic stars, of driving sports cars and not riding the bus, of marrying a model instead of falling in love?
But I never, ever, dreamt of a day as good as this one, not in my whole life. I never dreamt of a day when I would be surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, by such a community as you all. It wasn’t in my vocabulary; it was beyond my imagination.
Each dream that we have is informed by the life that we lead, by the things that we know, by the things that we love. Just as I am unable to preach in Farsi because I do not know Farsi, so we are not able to dream things that are not founded in some way by what we already have, what we already are.
I sometimes wonder if that is what we call crazy in this world, the ability to dream of things that are not. Perhaps the dreams of those who inhabit our asylums and more likely our halfway houses, are the ones of things that have no vocabulary, no tether to the world we live in and it is just too much for the mind to take.
Now it has come time for me to start dreaming of what Caitlyn will be. That is our next step as humans, to begin to dream about what will happen next, with our children, and their children if we are lucky enough to have the time to think about them. What kind of world will we dream for them, what kind of future?
It is daunting. So much of the future is unknown. You also have to fight the tendency to move from dream to plan; it serves no one to lay out before the child the instructions that they need to follow to fulfill your dream. The painful truth of adulthood is that you can dream all you want, but your kids will love what they love, and follow whomever they follow, and serve what they will serve and no amount of guidance or love can make certain any particular path.
Okay, no healthy amount of guidance or love. Caitlyn has classmates who are undoubtedly higher achievers than she is, but they have tiger moms and dads, proscribed lives, high goals and are not, on the whole, very interesting as people. They are trying desperately to fulfill their parents’ dreams, and that is not easy to do; it keeps you from being alive because a part of being alive is dreaming your own dream.
So I try and keep my dreams for Caitlyn in the abstract. It’s helpful to do that because Caitlyn dreams of being everything. She wants to be a writer and a doctor, and an editor, a job she is attracted to because you get paid to read, but also she wants to be a preschool teacher, and a singer and a number of other things my little non-dreaming head can barely get around.
So I content myself with dreaming that she be good. Healthy. Strong. Hopeful. Faithful.
She’s already smart so no need to waste a dream there. She’s pretty well along the way to good, so that one’s looking alright. The rest are just the tools, the things bequeathed to the next generation from this one so that they can thrive no matter what their dreams may hold, no matter where their dreams may take them.
The efforts of some of Caitlyn’s classmates’ parents to mold their children into something, it’s a historical precedent, immigrant families all want high achievement in the first native born generation, wanting doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs, actually, accountants are better than Indian chiefs, that effort offends me a little.
I don’t think that succeeding in place of living is adequate when it comes to living out a dream, when it comes to being who we are, and who we would want to be.
I sometimes wonder if we take God’s dreams for us and try and manage them as well, making the commandments into a litmus test, the high bar we need to get over to prove to our celestial parent that we were paying attention.
As if God’s dream for us was obedience.
Okay, maybe it is. There is a whole testament that includes a pretty high value to be placed on obedience. God has laid out for us a true and righteous path and the one who can tread that path and not fall off is the righteous one and is deserving of heaven.
But the one who can fulfill that dream is also fictional, they exist only in dreams, even god’s dreams and if you want to know how I know, it’s because God could certainly have made us all with the ability to fulfill that dream, to be perfect all the time and yet instead, God made us. I don’t think it was a mistake, I think that maybe there’s more to that dream than we can see.
Jesus clearly has a dream for us as well. Over and over again Jesus calls upon us to love one another, to be one as He and the father are one, to make fellowship with all the nations, bringing the good news, the sacraments, and the hope of the Kingdom of God.
But hey, I don’t even love everyone in my own family let alone the whole world. Okay, my immediate family yes, but there are some out there on the edges that are distinctly unlovely. The Christian ideal of love is extremely hard to accomplish in the modern context. Or in the ancient context for that matter, let’s settle on the human context makes it difficult for us to love one another as we know we ought, as Jesus would dream of us doing.
To fulfill that dream would be to set aside all of our own self-interests and truly love others as we love ourselves and that is just not something we are wired to do. Maybe if God had dreamt us perfect and able to keep the law then we’d have been able to love one another as God has first loved us, but not the way things are, maybe there is more to that dream than we can see.
The Holy Spirit is oft neglected in Lutheran circles but I’d like to propose that the Holy Spirit of God has a dream for us as well and we can perceive it in the Spirit’s mission among us.
Called the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth it seems that the Spirit has a mission of communicating, to us, with us and on our behalf. I can tell you right now that what a speaker needs, what a speaker dreams of is an audience. I’d say that given the Spirit’s calling, mission and activity among us, the Spirit dreams of a people open to hearing the truth, learning the Word, coming to know God in hope and in love.
I think that the Holy Spirit of God dreams of a world that is a little quieter than the one we live in today, a world where we are not constantly drowning out the voice of God with the voice of some television pitchman selling a political party, a Sham Wow or some other person’s vision of the dreams of God. The dreams of the Holy Spirit might include moments of rest, dinner table conversations, retreats that are actually retreats and not work sessions eating up another day supposedly reserved for rest.
But how many of us would be willing to give up the noise of progress, the sound sand clutter of this life and its abundant distractions? I think we’d all live in the mountains if we were willing to give this up. We like it, it holds us fast and we are loathe to give it up, even to hear the messages of the Spirit. After all, there’s some guy on television who says he speaks for the Spirit, we’ll listen to him instead.
Besides, striving and seeking and exploring is what an engaged life is, a nation of monks does not invent the internet, or send a rocket to the moon, we cannot all just be still and know that God is God so maybe there is more to that dream than we can see.
This is Trinity Sunday, the day when we celebrate that which we cannot explain by preaching and teaching that which we have a hard time believing.
But maybe the dreams of God are too big for us to fit into our brains. Maybe the dreams of God are so incomprehensibly vast, so suffused with love and grace that we can only grasp a portion of it at a time and so one God comes to us in three persons, each with a dream for us to share, each with a part of the message for us to dream.
They each bring to us a part of the vocabulary we will need in order to dream our own dreams and have them lead us into a better future, where the word of God will not be a goad, some cattle prod driving us to salvation but the very air that we breathe and the ground that we tread so that we are not so much obeying the will of God as living the will of God.
They bring to us the dream so that we can dream on our own of a day when wars will cease, when we will embrace our enemies and sit and share food and fellowship and enmity will pass away and never be brought to mind again, when we will indeed be one as God is one.
The trinity teaches us to dream by being the voice of God, reminding and refreshing us in the dreams that God has for us, for each of us and for all of us. One God sharing three dreams, three persons bringing us the single message, you are loved and treasured and you are mine.
We cannot encompass the whole thing, we are not the creatures who could perfectly obey and so we are not the creatures who can perfectly understand. But we are not called upon to fulfill God’s dreams for us. Jesus came to fulfill all obedience.
We are called upon to learn the vocabulary of Gods dreams, the vocabulary of love and of hope and of forever and of unity and to dream our own dreams and then make them come true in the Kingdom of God, come to us in three persons, three dreams, one God, one grace, all for you.