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, for them to promptly ignore.
We were given a “dream sheet” on which to list eight desired destinations. We could select a base, state, region, or country.
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 for my posting. The sergeant announced them weekly from the podium outside the dorms, usually triggering jeers of fake sympathy 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?
Well, I don’t know that they were uncaring, exactly; it’s more likely that they 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 suddenly 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. Not much like the “amazing plan for your life” we were promised. 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…go to work, go home, catch some Netflix, go to 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 the breakthrough God has been bringing you to – Satan can’t keep you out much longer!” It really keeps butts in pews. A recent study has shown its power at breeding optimism in its hearers.
But I’m jaded towards that stuff. It gets people bound up on a cliff of hope for years, perpetually expecting the amazing any moment. It gets their souls pinned on future things. Then they wake up years later and…still nothing.
I believe God cares about the things that matter 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.
Besides…we happen to serve a great Commanding Officer.
No one serving in the military gets mixed up in civilian matters, for his aim is to please his commanding officer. (2 Tim. 2:4)
That’s one of the best answers to “why doesn’t God seem to care about my dreams?” 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?
It’s a difficult calling. But the war is still raging, and souls are still in the balance. I know that’s frustrating, but don’t shoot this messenger; he’s in the same army as you.
The great news is that our Commanding Officer fights for us, fights with us, and can fight off our very exhaustion and disappointment if we will give him the opening. He does not call us to war without training, equipping, and leading us. He is with us, in our tent, on our field, in front of us and behind us.
I will be grateful for that today, as I wait for another dawn.
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* I am not calling out any particular church here. There are preachers and groups across the world that do this.