Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"I Can Dream, Can't I?"

Jim and I got talking about why God gave us our imaginations. At one point Jim asked, “Tom, are you saying that it isn’t okay to daydream? A fellow can dream, can’t he?” And that got me thinking about the difference between “hopes” and “wishes.”

Modern English tends to lump these two words together: wishing and hoping. We hear, “I hope that it won’t rain on our picnic,” or “I hope we win the game today,” etc. But according to scripture, the word “hope” has specifically to do with something that is not only unseen; but that is true; something that God has spoken that will be. Two scriptures come to mind:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

And…

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

To visualize our hope, and to think on it, we must use our God given ability to imagine. Hope is the object, while faith is the expression of it. This hope, which produces faith, comes from hearing something God has spoken to us. Wishes are just druthers. Better English would be, “I wish it wouldn’t rain today.”

However, if God has spoken to you, and said that it wouldn’t rain today, then you can say that you “hope that it doesn’t rain.” And then by faith, clouds or no clouds, you would make your picnic lunch, and bring your fuzziest blanket, and no umbrella, (thus showing that you believe that you believe what God said). Otherwise, if you bring these things, it is just “wishful thinking,” that it wouldn’t rain. And if it does rain, well, we have proverbs for people like you.

We once lived in a city whose winters were sub-zero temperatures for 6 plus months of the year, with Siberian winds constantly sweeping through to remind us. Those days I’d walk about, with 5 layers of clothes and my fur-lined hat, and my Peoples Liberation Army coat and mitts. In such conditions, I was often tempted to daydream. In my dreams, I play great tennis, against great tennis players. Oh, and in my dreams, I win.

Why not daydream? I wanted to escape the cold. Some days out all afternoon, I’d be trudging about visiting people. I had busses to get on and off, having to walk far between appointments, and it was freezing! Daydreaming was a way to distract myself from the cold.

Ha! How must I have looked, shuffling through those icy streets, with a goofy smile on my face, as I drop shot Pete Sampras, or blasted a backhand down the line and out of the reach of an exhausted Michael Chang?!? After accepting the trophy and accolades from Bud Collins, I would soon be home. Time seemed to go faster. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

But such daydreaming, can affect our relationships. One night after such a day of visits and appointments, (and having just gotten Andre Aggasi with my inside-out forehand approach shot), I got home, tromped upstairs to our apartment, where Ann, after a day of teaching and now cooking, handed me a pail of garbage and ask me to take it outside, and could I please “wash the inside out with snow this time, so we don’t get bugs?”

I was miffed! Would she have handed that bucket to Bjorn Borg? After “russafruffenmuffleduffinstinkinpailo’grussleduffin!!!” ing my way out to the garbage pile, I got some snow and started cleaning out the pail. The Lord asked, “Why so grumpy?”

Truth be told, I hadn’t actually picked up a tennis racquet in years. I was not a Wimbledon champion. I was an English teacher, with whose wonderful wife and children shared an apartment that none of us wanted smelling like decay. In fact, it was thoughtful of Ann to drop what she was doing, and to get that garbage to me, before I had taken off my PLA coat and mitts and boots.

I was grumpy, because I’d misused my God-given imagination.

I apologized to Ann (and she congratulated me on my latest Wimbeldon victory). But still daydreaming also affects my ministry. During my outing to the clay courts of Roland Garros, I wonder how many people I do not pray for, do not stop and bother to give a good word to, or bless. While winning Wimbledon, I do not worship, intercede, or witness for Christ. So many people pray for us, and none of them are praying that I’ll send a two fisted backhand down the line and just out of the reach of Manuel Orantes. (Don't you dare ask me who Manuel Orantes is. I have a birthday coming up!)

I don’t expect to really get this 100%, before I get to Heaven. But I can sure do a lot better than I am now! Not meaning to come down on all daydreams. Some memories come to mind so pleasant in fact, that they remind us to thank God for certain people, or to pray for them. True thoughts are fine to think on. Yet, I’m pretty sure I could not get a serve past Roger Federer.

The Bible says we are soldiers who are in a spiritual battle. If a soldier is in battle, and daydreaming about winning Wimbledon, he is putting himself and his comrades in danger.

“No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.” (2 Timothy 2:4)

I sure didn’t mean to sound like a killjoy to Jim. Are you thinking of the streets of gold and the crystal sea, a healing, or the ability to overcome an obstacle of faith? In Christ, these are all promised and so can be expressed as hopes. These are not just wishful thinking if you are in Christ Jesus. When I spoke about misusing our imaginations, I was more talking about vain imaginings; things that are not only not true, but that manipulate or distort, until we think differently of ourselves than we ought; (in a civilian way).

The Apostle Paul wrote: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

And…

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

We are in a war, and there is plenty to keep ourselves occupied with in our thought lives. My recommendation to Jim and anyone else who finds them selves stuck in wishes and daydreams, but who would rather be filled with hope and faith, is first to listen for God’s voice. Then, when He speaks, take that message from Christ, and get involved in praying, planning, and purposing your thoughts and actions towards that which God has spoken to you. Write it down, and ask God to wake you up, when your mind and actions are being spent on lesser things.

The battle of the ages is raging unseen. Reality is, that we who are in Christ, have been given great orders to bring God’s divine solution to this troubled world, “in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-.” (Philippians 2:15) When I meditate on that truth, and imagine what this might look like in the life God has given me, my life has great purpose.

Our imaginations are a gift from God, and with them, we can see what is real and from Him. We are to use our imagination for great things. So let us stop wishing, and start hoping!

Finally, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8,9)

I find it important that the first characteristic of what we are encouraged to think about is “whatever is true.” In these we can hope.

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