Dining recently in a local Chinese restaurant, I received an interesting fortune in my cookie: "Old dreams never die; they just get filed away."
Why would a dream be filed away, anyway? If it is a great dream, a worthy dream, a noble dream, why would one file it away? After all, Langston Hughes suggested what could happen to a "dream deferred" in his poem "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)."
A more literal translation from the Hebrew to English of Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, "For the dream comes by the greatness of the task." If the task is great, a dream is born, a dream that the task can be accomplished, a dream of how to accomplish it. The context of that verse speaks of making vows to God and of speaking one's mind with "a multitude of words." (And another Chinese proverb says, "Words do not cook the rice.") Actions (which we all know "speak louder than words"), not words, will get the job done, and words or promises spoken in haste (vows taken without sufficient consideration) will probably not be kept.
Likewise, dreams that are not well-thought, well-intentioned, and morally right may get filed away. Some dreams aren't worth dreaming. Reading on a bit further in Ecclesiastes 5, we see in verse 7, "For in the host of dreams both vanities and words abound; but fear God." A lot of dreams are full of vanity (emptiness); they are full of great, swelling words with no meaning.
Boastful dreams, self-serving dreams, worthless dreams, narcissistic dreams, and dreams in which others are hurt are easily identified by the words used to describe them: words that exalt self and/or debase God, words that deceive the unsuspecting and destroy the innocent; words that enslave rather than liberate, that cripple rather than heal; words that make grand, generalized, abstract promises while hiding the real motive and end of the dream. Those dreams should be filed away (some in the "round" file).
Politically speaking, there was a "dream" put forth in 2008 for "hope" and "change." We all must admit that the established political bases of both major parties needed change and that the majority of individuals needed hope. But the dream was put forth in such vague and clandestine terms that it was left open to the imagination and mind of the hearer just what that hope and change would be.
Now we see that it was quite the opposite of what had been mistakenly assumed. "New faces" has proven to be "socialist faces" and "communists" instead of "fresh, new lovers of our democratic system and supporters of the American constitution." Change has become the enslavement of our children and grand-children under a load of debt they can't possibly pay, the monstrous growth of the federal government and increasing limitation of personal rights, and economic and financial disaster to many of the middle class (who were supposed to be unaffected by the "changes"). The only "hope" left is that we can somehow reverse all this "change." So much for that dream, which came with a multitude of vanities and words.
As the Scripture suggests, in such cases, we should simply look to God in reverential trust in order to re-center the dreamer and help us re-envision the dream.
Other dreams proceed from God, and we should dare to dream the dreams he has for us. Proverbs 29: 18 says that "Where there is no vision (dream), the people perish (are let loose to drift away)." The image is of a boat left to drift at sea. As humans, we need dreams.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream—a noble dream. He was a noble man, a Christian who dared to dream God's dream of equality and justice, of righteousness and peace. Many in my generation (myself included) marched for and worked toward that dream. Thank God that Dr. King's dream did not get filed away.
But we can dream a higher dream than that one, for a higher dream is set before us. Some have filed it away; others have scoffed at it; but it remains. And the only revision needed is not to the dream, but to the person rejecting the dream, to the one beholding the dream, to the one dreaming the dream.
This "most excellent dream" is spoken of by the prophet Habakkuk. "Write the vision (dream), and engrave it on the tablets, that he may run who is reading it. For the vision (dream) is still for the time set, but it pants to the end and does not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, for surely it will come and will not tarry"—Habakkuk 2: 3-4. That vision (dream) was for a time when Messiah would come and be received as Lord and King of Israel. He came and was crucified, opening the way for Gentiles (non-Jews) to enter into the family of God, the kingdom of heaven. But He is coming again.
And that is the dream. It is not a vain dream. It is a reality. Jesus Christ is coming again. Referring to that scripture in Habakkuk, Paul declares, "For yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay"—Hebrews 10: 37. Yes, the dream seems deferred; the dream seems to have been filed away. But it is a dream proceeding from God, and it shall come to pass, in "yet a little while."
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