I love watching little children. They worship God so enthusiastically; they approach life so positively; they have a gleam and a sparkle in their eyes that shines more brilliantly than the finest diamond. It doesn’t matter how mundane the thing seems to us, they have an endless capacity for joy, even in repetition. My son would spend hours switching lights on and off when he was a toddler; it was one of his favourite games. Lifted high by an adult, he revelled in the magic of seeing the light come on and go off at his command. Another favourite game was throwing his cap off when he was on the swings so that we would go and fetch it: he would chortle with happiness at that simple game. Or the game where we built huge towers with ‘knock bricks’, but the real joy came when he knocked those towers down, to immediately build them up again and repeat the exhilaration of knocking them down! I spent the best bus journey of my life with a two year old boy whose face would light up every time the bus stopped and the doors opened to let passengers on and off because the lights would then go on. He was utterly fascinated by this, clearly seeing the connection between the doors and the light but failing to understand how this worked. Watching a little child blow bubbles or dance uninhibitedly reminds me of the joy there is in simple things; as an adult, I often forget this.
When we are younger, we dream big dreams. Nothing seems impossible, because we live in a world of everyday miracles. Sometimes we don’t always know what to do with our dreams; sometimes we can seem arrogant or unthinking as we bounce through life (think of Joseph in the early days!) But we are sure that we can make a difference and we are sure that life is full of great promise.
Sadly, that child-like faith and enthusiasm often don’t last into adulthood. We become scarred by life’s experiences, let down by people and disappointed by events. Dreams so often die. Life then becomes nothing more than dull routine. We go to work to pay the bills; we get up in the morning because we need to go to work to pay the bills; we come home and eat because we have to in order to survive; we go to bed because we need the sleep. Life is dull, wearisome, boring, monotonous and humdrum. We no longer believe in magic.
Actually, I never did believe in magic. I think magic relies on illusion, which (in Brennan Manning’s words) is a denial of reality. But I do believe in dreams. I believe ‘imagination creates and calls forth new reality that has not yet come to birth.’ (Brennan Manning) I believe God wants us to live like little children (Matt 18:3 TNIV), full of awe and anticipation, not necessarily in our own abilities, but in His.
God is in the business of birthing dreams in the hearts of His children. Without these dreams, without aspiration, without hope, we live lives that are rather like robotic drones. The dreams will involve a lot of waiting, however: ‘But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ (Rom 8:25 TNIV) They will require us to engage with God and to live by faith and not by sight. We may have to lay down our dreams in order to take up His dreams. But I believe it’s important we understand that delay does not mean disappointment and that ‘though it linger, wait for it’ (Hab 2:2 TNIV). Joseph’s dream was fulfilled. Ours can be too.