How good is it to dream dreams? To sit and ponder, to have awe and wonder, to muse and consider. Do you dream? Do you do it often? And the ones while your asleep don’t count in this discussion! Dreaming is a wonderful thing and I strongly suspect is unique only to humans. The power of an imagination can change the world. In fact, no invention (that we probably take for granted now!) came into being without it first being dreamed up in someone’s mind. What’s more these dreams that came to being were more often than not to solve a problem… but when was the last time you heard someone prescribe dreaming in the face of a problem? Well, here it is now… You need to dream and you need to do it often!
Dreaming is usually the first casualty in the face of problems, crisis and stress. Our rapid paced culture leaves it no room and if anything, looks down upon such ‘frivolous’ behaviour. We live in a paradox of the encouragement to ‘live the dream’, but also one that glorifies busyness and over-stuffed schedules – which kills dreaming! Dreaming requires a stillness of mind and peace of spirit to be able to pause and ponder, yet our lives are so full of things, tasks and people all screaming for attention! Something has to be done!
I see adults so overrun with tasks to complete and responsibilities to carry that they don’t ever stop to dream. Maybe in their annual leave they might take some time to do that… but then that is often spent in burn-out recovery so they can head back into the same cycle on repeat. They wonder about what to cook for dinner or how to pay the bills. They’re valid things to put thought and planning too, but they are not dreaming. Aware of our need for inspiration we choose rather than solitude and dreaming, to instead watch an inspirational movie, listen to a YouTube motivational speaker or Tedtalk… or maybe justify our circumstances by criticising someone else’s lifestyle choices.
I see children who are suffering in households where dreaming has never been explicitly taught, or implicitly caught. It can happen at any end of the socio-economic scale and in any combination of family structure. When I invite Primary school children into a dreaming conversation about their future, or the things they hope to see or do, many stare back blankly. They pause. They shoulder shrug. They don’t know. It is my greatest concern for the next generation and it is up to us to find remedy for this. A generation that can’t dream will lose creativity and the ability to change the world they inhabit. Dreams and ambition are inextricably connected. Dreams and conviction are a dynamic duo and an unstoppable force. It’s no surprise that Martin Luther King’s most famous speech began with… ‘I have a dream…’
The biggest correlation I can see in children and in adults who show an inability to dream is stress and not feeling safe. Both send you into survival mode living, which conserves energy by not doing anything unless you have too, task orients you and generally overwhelms you, reducing your capacity to think, let alone attempt to dream. Feeling safe is the most underrated thing in the world. If you don’t feel safe at home, or at school, or at work, or worst of all in all the arenas you spend time in; you are never going to relax enough to let your mind wonder and meander down different paths. These things can be handled for a season, but if this is the environment you are always in, the ability to dream is almost impossible.
The heartbreak of being unable to dream is that it’s often through dreaming that we can find ways out of problems. Dreaming breathes hope into feelings of hopelessness. Dreaming allows us to envisage a different story for ourselves than the one we’re in. At the very least it provides a harm-free mental escape from the story of today. It allows consideration of how to get from here to there. Dreams can also connect us to people in situations or positions we would like to be in which can then help pull us forward into these dreams. Dreams create pathways to what seem like impossibilities.
Dreaming is not just for wild and outlandish plans and ideas though; they are also fun and very worthwhile! Dreaming helps us take one more step. Dreaming is the language of God. I think there is no coincidence how often God spoke to people and re-directed them through both dreams and visions. Dreams propel us and sustain us. They can be both an anchor and an engine. We must re-learn and practice our ability to dream. For those of us with safe environments and low or manageable stress, let’s not waste our opportunity and ability to dream in this season! Demonstrate it to those around you and take the risk of maybe seeming strange! To those struggling, do all you can to find a little space for a dream. Even a small one. One step… and let a little hope rise within your heart. You are important, valued and very much needed. In fact, it may be your dream that most changes the world as we know it.