Sand, sun, seagulls, the sound of waves lapping at the shore… balm to the soul. For many years my husband and I had made it a tradition to take the day of our anniversary off and hang out at the beach like a couple of beach bums. It was September 13 and once again the beach was calling. But this particular trip to the beach was like none other. Most years we return with recharged batteries and renewed feelings of love. But this year we brought home a lot more.
Rewind to the weeks leading up to that day. Because of the difficult crisis that we were going through (the one mentioned in a recent article), my husband and I had chosen to seek the help of a professional counselor. We wanted to learn how to pick up the pieces of our shattered hearts. It felt like we were in survival mode, barely making it through the responsibilities of each day. We wanted to do more than merely exist; we wanted to learn how we could live, and love, and trust again. The counselor affirmed what we already knew, the fact that we had experienced a life-altering blow. But she also reassured us that our lives could be good and full again as we walked through this dark valley and got to the other side, back to the land of the living. It was hard to imagine that we could recapture any semblance of normalcy in our life and here she was saying that life could be good again. We grabbed on to the words of hope that she offered.
I remember one time in particular when Sandy, our counselor, asked us what our dreams for the future were. My husband and I sat silent without a response. It felt like our dreams had been shattered. Dreams are for the living, we felt like the walking dead. But Sandy was encouraging us to look to the future and to dream again. She told us that as hard as it was to imagine at that moment, someday the trauma would not be as consuming as it currently was. She sent us home with an assignment, if we were to have a dream, what would it be?
The thought of dreaming was way out there for me, it was a battle just to get up in the morning. I tried to conjure up a dream, but try as I may I couldn’t think of anything that I actually wanted to do. It felt like my dreams had turned into nightmares. I felt numb. In his own way, my husband was pretty much the same. We tried to dream but every attempt seemed to fall flat. Then one day, on our anniversary, we chose to celebrate in traditional fashion and off to the beach we went. We read books, we napped, and we walked along the shoreline. The sights, the smells and the sounds soothed our battle torn souls. Staring out at the water my husband announced that he knew what his dream was going to be. He pointed to a sailboat that was making its way into the bay and he said, “That’s what I want to do, I want to get a sailboat and learn how to sail.” I couldn’t seem to come up with my own dream so I decided to tag along with his. God used this single solitary dream to help us grab onto the thought of life beyond this nightmare. We were on the road to healing.
Henry David Thoreau was quoted as saying, “Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.” I could not agree more. Granted there are difficult times in life, times of mourning and sadness, times in which it is understandable that out of necessity dreams have to take a back seat. But dreams are an essential part of the adventure of living, and when life loses its sense of adventure, it’s merely called existence. I want so much more than that. And according to the God’s Word, He wants so much more for us as well.
In the book of John, Jesus said that a thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness (John 10:10). The thief had come into our family and had taken away things that were precious to us: our security, our ability to trust, our dreams for our family, once treasured relationships, and so much more. The thief wanted to destroy us as individuals and he wanted to destroy our family. But Jesus didn’t let that happen. Through the gift of one dream, Jesus renewed our hope of living.
Eventually we bought that boat and my husband learned how to sail from a book that we borrowed from the library. To the experienced sailor we were probably a site for sore eyes as we inched our way through the water, sometimes going only in a circle. On more than one occasion the boom came pretty close to knocking me in the head. I’m just glad that we didn’t kill ourselves while trying to recapture life! The sailboat itself is now but a memory, while the dream of it has been replaced by many more dreams. That first new dream was merely a portal to our now abundant life.
In reflecting on the importance of our ability to dream again, I realize that the Bible is full of dreamers and invitations to adventure. To name but a few:
- At the age of 75 God told Abraham to leave his county and his people to go to a land that God would show him. If Abraham chose to go, God promised to bless him greatly, to bless people through him and make him into a great nation even though he was childless at the time (Gen 12:1-3). That must have been quite the adventure! Abraham gave it all up to follow a God that he could not see.
- The youngest in his family, often left behind, Joseph had a dream that one day others would bow down to him. Because of his brothers’ jealousy his dream landed him at the bottom of a well abandoned for dead, sold into slavery, thrown in prison, chased around by Potiphar’s wife, cast as interpreter of dreams… but eventually Joseph was put in charge over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh (Genesis). Dreams, adventure and more dreams, mixed in with a heavy dose of drama! What a crazy turnabout!
- Engaged to be married to Joseph, Mary was visited by an angel who told her that she would give birth to God’s son. When she asked how could this be in light of the fact that she was still a virgin, the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would be overshadowed by the power of the Most High (Luke 1:30-33). Wow, can you even begin to imagine the flood of thoughts that entered her mind?! Can you imagine waiting for that to happen? And then whoa when it did? Speaking as a woman, can I spell ADVENTURE on this one?!
- Paul, overtaken by a bright light on the road to Damascus, a persecutor of Christians turned missionary, his assignment landing him in prison several times, exposed to death numerous times, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked three times, in danger everywhere he looked on land and at sea, etc. (Acts 22:2-13; 2 Cor 11:23-27) High adventure, maybe not the kind that you and I would like, but high adventure indeed!
Anyone who thinks that being a Christian is boring has not stepped fully into the shoes of a Jesus following believer. Even today we are invited to live abundant lives full of God led adventures. A young man once approached Jesus asking about how he might obtain eternal life. Jesus invited the young man to follow Him, but told him that he first must give up all of his possessions in order to gain the life that he desired. Instead of following Jesus into this adventure of the unknown, the young man went away sad because he was unable to part with his great wealth (Matt 19:16-22). The young man mistakenly thought that the life he desired was found in something other than following Jesus.
You and I are offered the same invitation to eternal abundant life today. Jesus says, “Come, follow me… and I will make you fishers of men (Matt 4:19).” This is an invitation to an abundant life of adventure if I ever heard one.
But maybe you find yourself in a place where you’re not quite ready to believe that a life lived in and for Christ will bring you the abundant life that you hope for. I’ve been there, and sometimes I still find myself wanting to hold onto the things of this world. However, I am convinced both by Scripture and by personal experience that there is only one path to the truly abundant life that I desire, and that path is found in the footsteps of Jesus. All other paths lead to mere existence.
Or maybe you find yourself where my husband and I were some years back. You are barely making it through the day, yet to boot daring to dream of something other than your next task. If this is you, my heart goes out to you. That’s a tough place to be. But I promise you that there is real hope for a full and abundant life beyond this difficult time. If you’ve been trying to get back onto the path of living all by yourself, maybe it’s time to seek the help of a good Christian counselor, or a pastor, or a trusted godly friend. I encourage you to take hold of the lifeline that’s being tossed your way.
My hope was renewed when I dared to dream a new dream. By tagging along on my husband’s dream to someday sail, I was able to step back up to the threshold of life. But it is through following Jesus that I have discovered the secret to abundant living. C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” My dream is to day by day follow in the footsteps of Jesus wherever that may lead. Truthfully the obstacles and potential pitfalls are a bit daunting; I fully realize that I am not exempt from pain and difficulty just because I am seeking to follow Jesus. After all, Paul’s mission to follow Jesus got him shipwrecked three times, and then some! But I have had a good taste of the full and abundant life that Jesus promises. Now I’m spoiled and I want nothing less. My sails are up and waiting to catch the eye of the wind. Only God knows the course that I will travel. Would you like to come along? There’s always room for more!