Subtitle: Or, at the least, I think I believe
Sub-subtitle: Or, at the most, I believe I know
Throughout my life, I have dreamed.
(Dreams I distinguish from hopes. Hope is my active capacity to anticipate and to work toward what has not yet come into being; for example, a good outcome amid a dire situation. A dream is my passive wishful thinking of my desires in the face of things – principally, life’s chance and circumstance – I neither command nor control.)
When I was a child, with most (nearly all!) of my aspirations and achievements still in that yet to be realized realm of “potential,” I dreamed, almost daily, that I already was what I wished I would become: smart and strong, tall and slim, brave and wise, handsome and winsome, rich and without worldly care.
Now, as I look back on my nearly 70 years of life, my dreams were not realized.
Yes, from time to time, I have been somewhat smart and sort of strong, but never tall or slim, not particularly brave, though, on occasion, a little wise (which is another way of saying not entirely foolish), not especially handsome or winsome, and never rich and with manifold worldly cares.
As I aged, my dreams became more specific. I would earn a doctorate degree and become a university professor (my chosen area of concentration: the European Continental and English Reformation periods of the 16th and 17th centuries). Ever possessed of a wondering and wandering imagination, I would travel widely. In my spare time, I would write “the great American novel.”
None of that happened. The call of compensated labor long-forestalled, and then, eventually (inevitably) derailed my continued pursuit of a life in academe. A fear of flying made widespread and frequent travel less an exciting and more a terrifying venture. And though I enjoy writing fiction, it is merely a personal avocation; my works, hardly fodder for public consumption.
All this is to say that my dreaming has been and remains precisely that: Dreaming.
And here’s the rub, the problem. My problem. My dreams, having morphed into my image of the model Paul, the person I wish I was, loom as a shadowy specter. Ironically, though faraway, thus, beyond my reach to achieve, my dreams always hover nearby, just over my shoulder as a brighter, better likeness than the one I behold in the looking glass.
Yes, there are moments when I can look past the inaccessible model of me, so to accept my mirrored reflection (and, at best, the person behind the reflection). Nevertheless, always my mind’s eye can visualize the picture of my perfect self.
In yesterday’s sermon, I spoke of our common human dignity as created in God’s image. At the time, I wasn’t conscious that I wasn’t referring to myself (whom I know all too well: my little good and my lot of bad!), but rather to everyone else.
A dear friend, Teri Wiedeman-Rouse, responding to the sermon wrote, in part: “Ah, dignity! We all have it. We just don’t all see it in ourselves…”
Aha, thank you, Teri! My seeing dignity in others, I can and will do. Seeing it in myself? Not so much.
So, taking to heart Teri’s counsel, I behold this saving grace: When I, with my soul’s sight, can see how God sees me – in the words of the psalmist, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and in the words of the Apostle Paul, “a new creation” – then I can forswear my perfect self, and relax and rejoice in the me who I am!
© 2021 PRA
Endnote: Psalm 139.14; 2 Corinthians 5.7