As I was wrapping up Air Force basic training (never have seven weeks passed so swiftly and so slowly), one of the final bureaucratic details was the chance to tell the Air Force our preference of first posting.
We were given a “dream sheet” on which to list eight desired destinations. We could select a preference of base, state, region, or country for them to promptly ignore.
Some of us got an insider tip: wait until tech school to file your sheet. For whatever reason, sheets filed there tended to be actually seen by someone, whereas those filed at basic vanished into the same black hole that has probably consumed all my socks.
So I waited until tech school, filed my sheet, and waited with bated breath. The sergeant announced postings weekly at formation, usually triggering jeers for anyone getting “Why Not Minot?”
Finally, my turn came. I got a posting in the…half of the country I’d requested.
Wrong border, though. 1,500 miles away.
Did the Air Force just not care?
I don’t know that they were uncaring, exactly; they simply had a mission to carry out, and that took priority.
After all, I’d signed on the dotted line. I was there to serve. There’d been no shortage of clarity in basic training that my own freedoms and desires had been rendered quite secondary. (All doubt should have been erased when the first worship song in chapel was Audio Adrenaline’s “Hands and Feet”: I’ll gooo where you send me, go where you send me…)
Which brings us to God.
Some can relate if I say the Christian life has turned out to be more grind than realization of dreams. I do know a few who get to live the hard, breathless, but exciting ministry existence, seeing God provide and deliver in insane ways. But for the rest of us, life seems to be a lot of…work, go home, catch some Netflix, sleep, dread Monday. Lather, rinse, ring in the new year, repeat.
Sure, we never go hungry. And we can tell the occasional story of God’s cool moments.
But…we want more.
We thought it was supposed to be more.
We feel guilty for feeling that way. But we still do.
Some* corners of Christianity double down on the exciting dream talk. “You’re closer than you think you are to breakthrough – Satan can’t keep you out much longer!” It really keeps butts in pews. A recent study has shown its power at breeding optimism.
But I’m jaded. That stuff gets people bound up on a hope cliff for years, perpetually expecting the amazing, their souls pinned on future things. Then they wake up decades later and…nothing.
I believe God cares about what matters to us (at least those which aren’t sins). I believe we serve a kind-hearted Savior, the kind who did not mind rustling up some wine for a wedding that ran out. And he does realize dreams, albeit in his own time and way.
But…there is a mission at hand.
And not a small or frivolous one. It’s nothing less than the great mission ever issued…the fight to save souls.
Thousands plunge daily into hell. That simple fact ought to snap us out of our moment, sober us up like a dash of water to the face, throw our dull pursuits into sharp relief. We live in a crisis of eternity. There is a war on – Paul uses that imagery unapologetically and unpoetically. We are soldiers. That does not stop being reality because we dislike it, or because it’s inconvenient, or even because we’re hurting. It’s the intrusive, unyielding nature of war, bending us all under its iron tread, and for the time being, we have to learn to live with it.
It should come as no surprise, then, that our dreams must take a back seat.
A better question might be, “Do I care about God’s dreams?”
Do we have the maturity to lay aside our own desires and take up our weapons? Do we have the selflessness to think of others even as our wounded souls wonder how we’ll ever get what we need?
The thing is…military life requires grind. There’s endless drill, training, repetition, refinement of what we’ve already long known. But the grind can be holy, for it is accomplishing something. All the office diligence and witness, the Sunday school work, the decidedly boring faithfulness we show every week…God uses it. It becomes a blank canvas on which he paints.
Perhaps, instead of looking for the holiness outside the grind, we should look for the holiness within it.
And in the end, don’t count out God’s ability to bring your dreams back around. I’ve seen it happen.
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* I am not calling out any particular church here. There are preachers and groups across the world that do this.