If we have even a little awareness, we realize we don’t live in paradise. Only two people ever did and they blew it! And now the rest of us are living East of Eden, as John Steinbeck put it. In fact that big book of his is a wonderful literary narrative of what life outside of paradise is really like. I know I have enough awareness to realize my life is not paradise and no one I know has paradise life either.
I know how to talk about paradise—at least from a biblical perspective. I have studied the text of the first two chapters of Genesis enough to know what it means and the story it is meant to convey. I have spent enough time with the third chapter of Genesis to have a sense of what Adam and Even were up to when their relationship with God went south. Without going into any details, let simply say God had a dream for Adam, Eve and all their descendants—right down to you and me. But the dream ended badly.
Of course, there still are good things happening in life. My own life has had more than its share of good things and good fortune. While I would not claim it is a dream, I have been more fortunate than most. Having said that, however, does not mean there have not been pitfalls and bad breaks. I have been down, but never out. While my life has not been a dream, most of the time I have avoided hell. But I know this is not true for others.
It seems with regularity people wander into my life who want to talk about their broken dreams. Some even feel like they are living a nightmare. And for all intents and purposes, they are. I can even agree that some of them have been to hell and back. And some seem actually to be lingering or are stuck in hell. In my theology hell is not for eternity, but quite frankly any time spent there is bad news. And so I try to help folks.
My good friend, even though she is relatively young, volunteers for hospice. She is clear she has a ministry and has some gifts she is willing to share. I know she has been a blessing to countless folks as they face their last days here on earth. Working in hospice has the advantage of knowing the end is near and knowing you are not going to change the ending that death brings. Hospice is not selling the dream of avoiding death and having life, as you knew it back again.
And so I have been thinking about dreams. Typically, dreams are a good thing. Dreams are about the future---normally a good, positive future. No one sits around dreaming about getting cancer or going financially broke. We might fear those things; we might have nightmares about them. But we don’t dream about them. We have dreams for good things, for better things, etc. And those dreams are great.
Usually dreams foster hopes. And they energize us. Dreams can make us eager. We can have dreams with other folks involved. Lovers dream of a life together. Spiritual groups, like churches, can have dreams of what is in store for them and what they can do together. In fact I have often found that I like being part of a group that has dreams even more than my own personal dreams. It is so much fun to be part of a group that has big things going on. Dream on…
As I think further into the matter, I do believe we can do some things to make our dreams more viable. There are some things we can do that enhance the possibility that our dream (a future thing) can come to be true. Dreams do come true. Sometimes I can work hard on my dreams. As a spiritual person, I can ask God to be part of my dream and to help actualize it. Often other people can be drawn into the mix. If we are lucky, we have many resources. And that’s good!
Sadly, there are times when dreams die. Because dreams are possibilities, they come with no guarantee. Dreams foster hope, but our hope may be frustrated and, eventually, exhausted. Dreams can die. Sometimes dreams die, even if we did nothing to kill them off. What can we do if and when our dreams die? Is it all over?
This is precisely where faith comes in. Faith is what gives rise to dreams and faith is still there if the dream dies. The death of a dream is not death! Dreams die, but we live. This is the bottom line. And the bottom line---our life---is where we cultivate faith and seek to make our faith stronger as we grow and develop. The kind of faith I am talking about is faith in God.
If I have faith and a strong faith in God, then I am going to be well regardless. My faith is the source appreciation of the present and my confidence in the future. And my faith in God allows me to cherish my dreams when I have them. And that faith preserves me when my dreams die. Dreams die; faith never does.