Some things I have learned #20

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

4 thoughts on “Some things I have learned #20

  1. Paul,

    I really appreciate Terri’s counsel and that you’re in a place where you can relax and rejoice in the YOU that you ARE!! Many others rejoice in that as well.

    I’ve always believed that dreams show us what some of our potential options are and then our life unfolds according to God’s plan. I’d love to see the flip side of this post, where you share all of the accomplishments you have achieved in your almost 70 years of life, like maybe what you see as your Top 10 List. It’s so interesting how others see us so differently from how we see ourselves.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Loretta, always, you are kind to me: “…I’d love to see the flip side of this post, where you share all of the accomplishments you have achieved in your almost 70 years of life, like maybe what you see as your Top 10 List…”

    Your comment brings to mind a seminar I attended, now, many years ago. The focus was on individual accomplishments. The facilitators, initially, asked each of us to name one accomplishment, and then to describe what we had done to make it happen. To a person, each of us began to speak of the cooperation and shared gifts of others who joined in, taking part to achieve the goal. The facilitators said, as I recall, “No, we want to know what YOU did!” It was an eye-opening moment for each of us. For none of us, at first, would have thought to speak only of ourselves. Perhaps out of modesty or, in fact, truly believing that none of us stands alone to do anything (which I believe to be true!). Nevertheless, the facilitators then said, “If we are taught to learn from our mistakes, why cannot we also learn from our successes. And in order to do that, we, each and all, must claim our personal, individual contributions.”

    I share this with you, which, again your recommendation above brought to mind (for I hadn’t thought about this experience in years), for I will ponder producing a flip side of this post! AND your counsel that I prepare a Top 10 List reminds me of our collaboration on my book of sermons. For you asked me, “What are your top sermons? Make a list and we’ll go from there!”

    Love you

    Liked by 2 people

  3. YES!!!!! I remember that sermon conversation!!! It’s time for the next book of sermons now right??? I look forward to reading the flip side of this post!!
    Love ya back!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmm, I don’t think there will be another book of sermons, Loretta. However, your idea about the flip-side of this post intrigues me. I’ll have to ponder that.


    Liked by 1 person

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