“You have to have a dream,” confessed Billy Wilder, “so you can get up in the morning.” However, is your dream just a fantasy with you being centre-stage or is it a longing to see God at work in a particular way?
This Monday I was standing in church with one of our organists, Graeme, along with two organ experts, Stephen from the Diocese and organ builder David. It seems that our present organ is no longer viable and we were revisiting the options.
I already knew what Graeme’s preferred option was – a beautiful new organ at the west end of the church, built on and suspended over the balcony. It would probably cost, he told me, over £1million.
No doubt a magnificent instrument. But he knew, of course, that we could not justify the expense. Just a dream. Now, back to reality.
But it got me thinking. When does such a dream, however ambitious, become a vision given to us by God?
After all when God is involved, money can never be a problem. The key question is not whether we can afford it; the key question is always whether the Lord of heaven and earth is at work? After all, he is the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Sometimes such a vision can come to us in a particular moment and then takes hold of our lives.
At the outset of Susan Howatch’s novel, Glamorous Powers, Abbot Jon Darrow has a powerful vision of a chapel in a dell. And this vision upholds and steers him through a succession of personal crises.
(Worth reading, incidentally).
More often though such vision comes gradually as we learn to dream, to allow our imaginations to be untethered from our mundane expectations.
This is how God works, through the grace of his Holy Spirit. He speaks through our imagination, whether awake or asleep. A powerful gift.
As Peter proclaims at Pentecost:
“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)
But how do I know if my dream, this vision comes from God? After all my imagination is as flawed and self-centred as the rest of me.
Here we need each other. The question is “Can we share our dreams with each?” This is the check given by Jesus against wish fulfilment, against self aggrandizement.
So he counsels “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.” (Matthew 18:19). Just two, better three – “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (v20)
“I think that the greatest gift God ever gave man is not the gift of sight but the gift of vision.” remarks Bahamian pastor Myles Munroe. “Sight is a function of the eyes, but vision is a function of the heart.”
So we need to encourage each other to imagine, to explore what God can do in our world. Decide to give him space in our day-dreams while rejecting foolish fantasies. And we need to help each other to interpret what God may be showing us.
Organist Graeme has since told me that he has a recurring dream of this beautiful organ at the west end. He shared with me (and I have asked his permission to include this) “I even saw and heard myself playing it.” He speaks of overwhelming emotions flooded him.
He realises that it not to be taken literally. He tells me: “I’ve prayed about it, asked for interpretation and have talked to several people.” He’s not there yet – but he is open to God’s direction.
So what is your dream?
But the answer is only the beginning of the story. I often return to Oswald Chalmers’ seminal book My utmost for his highest.
“God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience.” (Entry for July 6)
As ever the Christian life is tough going – but hold on to that dream God has given you, decide to realise that vision he has given you. But above all, check it out with your fellow disciples.
“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” (Joel A. Barker)
The most powerful dynamic, however, is when my dream becomes our dream