Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On dreams, calling, and God's great will

Some days I allow myself to dream. I'm good at it, when I do it. I can craft an alternate reality for myself, so sweet, so real and vivid that I can taste and smell those dreamed confections.

There is a position at the seminary that intrigues me. They have a great guy in that position right now who is very capable and extraordinarily talented. So talented, in fact, that his responsibilities are currently expanding. He is so capable, however, that he will probably continue to fulfill the position that so intrigues me.

But what if he didn't? On those days when I dream, I imagine that he doesn't, and that they-- the administration of this seminary that I love so dearly-- ask me to take his place. Of course they have recognized my potential and wish to groom me to supplement and eventually replace the professor who now teaches many of the subjects I love. They will want me to do Ph.D. work here in St. Louis while serving in this intriguing job that would even allow me to continue the research and writing I want to do. My dreams, you see, quickly escape reality and become exercises in self-flattery. Wild dreams, indeed.

I also dream about the school where I teach. Specifically, I dream that they would chase after me. My role over the coming year, in part, will be to evaluate what they need to look for in future administrative roles. As I do this, it will be my tendency to create those roles in my own image: I could easily describe for them only what I would want to do, were I in that position. I must be careful not to allow this to happen. But when I dream, I see the school board Chairman asking me to set my concerns aside. “We want you to envision yourself in this position, Ed,” he says in my dreams. “We hope you will stay, to serve in a position custom-crafted to be everything you want to do and nothing you do not.” As you can see, it is healthy that I only allow myself to dream like this occasionally.

Now, neither of these dreams are in line with what I believe God has called me to pursue. In fact, in many ways they are contrary to so many of the particulars of the calling I have discerned. And, as I have mentioned before, my sense of calling is very strong indeed: I am convinced that God is preparing me for a ministry that serves to nurture and restore vitality to His church, most likely in the context of the local church, and most likely as a solo pastor.

I am convinced of this; yet, sometimes my dreams are of things other than this.

Here is the point of the reflection: both of these dreams have passed before my mind's eye over the last few weeks, and both of them excited me, gave me hope, and stirred up a longing for the future. But when I got the e-mail I mentioned earlier about a potential pastoral position, the emotions from the other scenarios paled in comparisons. That is, my wildest dreams, elaborate though they may be, do not come close to stirring up the zeal and anticipation inflamed in me by a simple, vague e-mail related to what God has actually called me to do.

There will be many things about that particular calling that I will not, and do not, look forward to; I know I will face discouragement, struggle, and defeat. Yet even in the face of that, I would rather serve that calling than pursue anything that is not according to His great will for me. The singular, definitive event of recognizing the contrast between my dreams and His calling has made me realize that.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Psalm 84:10

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