The following is a chapter in my new book, “Deep Waters: God’s Invitation To Go Deeper.”
Field of Dreams
Love is a courageous act. Living a life of hope is too. The Father designed us to be hopeful people. Our hearts are meant to be so filled with hope that they drip. In fact, hope is essential to victorious Christian living. Still, too few people are living hopeful lives. We have retreated and given up ground in this area of life, but it’s time to change this. It’s time to take another step forward.
I’m currently leaning back in my squeaky chair and looking out my second story office window. It’s a great view that overlooks a local school’s football field. Further up on the ridge is the western boundary of a partially scorched Black Forest. A little more than three months ago, I watched out this same window as helicopters armed with giant buckets tried desperately to squelch the horrifying flames that were roaring out of control in the forest, less than two miles from where I was sitting. It was a scene right out of a movie, and unfortunately, a scene right out of my memory.
Twelve months prior—almost exactly to the day—I watched as a different wildfire (the Waldo Canyon Fire) rudely barged into our city limits and wreaked a path of destruction that left hundreds of people without homes. It was a sight I had hoped I would never witness again, but sadly, my eyes viewed what seemed to be an instant replay from the previous year.
Today’s window view is quite different. I just watched as a young boy (probably third grade), dressed in a red polo and tan khakis, ran with a football, dodged imaginary tacklers, and did a spin move into the end zone. He spiked the ball with as much strength as he could muster, and he lifted his arms in celebration as the imaginary crowd chanted his name. He thought nobody was looking, but I gave him a standing ovation from my office. It was, again, a scene right out of my memory.
Watching the young boy dream about making would be tacklers look foolish reminded me of my childhood. I would often ride my bike to the local football field, put on cleats that were two sizes too big, and pretend I was suddenly orchestrating a historic fourth quarter comeback. The 75,000 screaming Notre Dame fans were cheering me on, and so was “Touchdown Jesus.”
I’m assuming khaki boy and me aren’t the only two who have ever acted out such audacious dreams. I recently went on a run and saw a young boy playing basketball in his front driveway. He dribbled between his legs and attempted a turnaround buzzer beater, which he missed badly. He was quick to allow room in his imagination for one more second on the clock in order to sprint to the hoop and kiss the ball off the backboard for the real winning bucket. He too threw his arms in the air and celebrated—and then tried to act cool as he realized somebody had actually witnessed his heroics.
His dream wasn’t about to end in failure. What kid dreams of coming up short? In my dreams, not once did I get tackled short of the goal line as time expired; neither did I see khaki boy get flattened by an imaginary Brian Urlacher. He scored every time, and he celebrated with vigor after every score.
Isn’t it interesting that kids have a natural capacity to dream big? Not only do they dream, but they dream about victory and beauty. Little boys dream about being the hero and little girls dream about being the beautiful princess.
And then they grow up.
Don’t get me wrong—adults still dream. We still harbor in our hearts a picture of what we think the future will look like, but the nature of the picture changes drastically as we get older. Beauty and victory often disappear, and instead, the colors become dark and dreary. It’s almost as if the paintbrush changes hands and a new artist begins his work. Mark Twain once penned, “I have lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Isn’t this easy to allow? We buy into a picture of the future that gives far too much room for fear and worry. Somewhere along the way, we subconsciously ask the Master Artist to put down His paintbrush, and we allow the enemy to paint a safer picture that doesn’t require faith or hope.
It feels safe because we all know that hope is risky business. Hope involves jostling your heart from its slumber and putting its neck on the line. And besides, this is hostile territory. Tragedy strikes. Houses burn. Jobs vanish. Relationships crumble. So do city walls.
The Bible tells a story about a courageous man who carried a big dream in the midst of tragic circumstances. He refused to give up hope. Nehemiah heard the report that Jerusalem’s walls had been broken down and its gates burned. When he heard the news, he sat down and wept for days. He mourned and fasted, and then he prayed and began to dream about rebuilding a wall and a city.
I’m intrigued by his ability to seek God’s vision after such a tragic event. His heart didn’t retreat to the basement of his soul. He was not about to allow the artist of destruction to paint the final picture in this story. This was not the time or place to retreat; this was a time to dream God’s dreams, to let hope rise in his soul, and pursue those dreams with an unwavering passion and courage until they became reality. The kingdom of darkness trembles in the presence of such a soul, and the enemy actively works to diminish this hope and return the heart to its slumber.
Nehemiah experienced wave after wave of opposition. One of the primary tactics the enemy employed to oppose Nehemiah and attempt to diminish his hope and squash his dream was the ridiculing words of others.
Listen to Nehemiah’s own words:
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:1-3, NIV)
The answer was yes. God certainly did bring the “stones back to life from those heaps of rubble.” He created beauty from ashes through the faithfulness and obedience of Nehemiah and the Jews he had inspired. The wall was rebuilt and hope was restored—even in hostile territory.
God is still doing this today. He’s creating rivers of hope in a dry and barren land. He’s urging us to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18). Why? Because He’s doing a new thing. As the prophet Isaiah wrote:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).
He’s erasing the dreary painting of the enemy and creating something much more spectacular. He knows the plans He has for you, and they are plans for hope and a future. They aren’t plans to simply help you keep your head above water or barely make life work. They are victorious, beautiful, and glorious plans, and God is passionate about making them a reality in your life. As we allow God’s dreams to become our dreams, we will experience the arrival of hope and passion; perhaps the kind of passion that once resided in us as kids.
Why shouldn’t we recover our ability to dream hopeful dreams; dreams of victory and beauty? I’m not advocating a life of fantasy, but I’m saying the picture we hold of our future shouldn’t be full of anxiety, fear, and dread. Hope should be one of the defining characteristics of our lives as Christians. The tomb was empty on the third day! The one who sits enthroned over all things is the one who is for you.
Hope rises as we allow our hearts to be the field in which God plants the seeds of His dreams. I guarantee the dreams the Father has for you are victorious. They’re dreams of you loving Him and His people, building His kingdom, and producing fruit at every turn. He dreams of you living a powerful, joyful, and peaceful life. He dreams of your heart being whole and holy before Him.
One of the reasons our hearts may not be whole and healthy is because we lack real hope. The Scripture says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12, NIV). The Bible also explains that “a cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV). The Father wants you to dream with Him, to hope with Him, and as a result, to laugh with Him as the dreams become reality.
This isn’t meant to be theory, but God wants to see this become a reality for your heart. A possible starting place is to carve out time in the next week specifically designed for dreaming with God. I encourage you to create a sort of “bucket list” with Him. Ask the Father to show you what He dreams of for your life. What are things that He wants to do with you this year? How about the next five or ten years? Remember the words you heard Him speak over your life from a previous chapter? Allow Him to expand those words and paint an even clearer picture.
I just started praying this over my own life. I was asking for the dreams of the Father to be the same dreams that reside in my heart. I started creating my own bucket list with Him. The first thing I noticed was that God’s dreams are much bigger than mine. Really, God? You want me to do that? I thought about dismissing it, but then He reminded me about the previous chapter and the importance of courage.
As I prayed, my eyes naturally shifted from my computer screen to the window again. The clouds are hanging over the ridge in a way that is eerily similar to the smoke plumes from last summer. If I squint, I can even see the torched trees that remain. An ugly reminder of reality.
However, I can also see the field.
A reminder to dream anyway.