3/25/2012

From Dreams to Surrender - A Journey

There is a vast landscape between dreams and surrender. I've come to a middle ground on my journey where the valley is mysterious and dangerous. Behind me on the distant hillside like an abandoned carnival rest the old dreams. Some of them are broken down with caution tape around them. Others of them are still and lifeless with the wind howling through the spaces between the bars. I can still smell the popcorn machine when the wind is just right. The occasional wisp of cotton candy floats by and beckons me to return. I've come too far in the right direction even if the child inside of me has no idea why I would leave behind the good old days.

I remember riding the dream of being a rock star until I made myself puke. Around and around with dizzying drive and ambition I stayed on for another turn. Finally when I stepped off and tried to walk, I collapsed into a vomit-scented pile on the grass. So much for the promise of glory! I remember weeping as the ride that had been a classic and my favorite started to sink into the soggy ground right before my eyes. As I look up now to that hillside I can still see the half-circle of its remains sticking out of the earth and looking at me like a big, drowsy eye.

There are so many dreams up there. The one of having the ideal family is nothing but a paint-chipped carousel with unrecognizable horses and sinister music. There is the dream of becoming a film editor in Hollywood that I barely escaped with my life when the trestle beneath the car cracked on a steep incline. Now it looks like a gray skeleton of sharp toothpicks with barely a resemblance of its former construction.

Dreams have left their litter along my path, too. Mostly it's trash from a photo album of time spent up on that dreamy hillside. There are pictures of me smiling and laughing; sharing good times with friends; building the dreams with the help of my parents and mentors. The sorrow was so great when I looked at the pictures at the beginning of my journey. But as I walked on I discovered things in the frame I hadn't noticed before. The sky was menacing in one of them and there appeared to be a fanged cloud above us in another. We were having a great time as we were oblivious to the demons that supervised our work. Where was God's blessing on all our endeavors? Where was His hand?

On the distant mountain ahead.

The place that lies before me now is further away than I know and closer than I can imagine. There is no poster or brochure to give me an idea of what to expect. I haven't seen a vision or even heard an ad on the radio about this place. The only clues I've been given are in the form of promises. God's constant reassurance that He knows what's best for me. Sometimes that seems like it isn't enough to keep me moving forward. I've found myself walking in circles like the nation of Israel in the wilderness, grumbling.
What I didn't realize was that in all the walking, things were falling off of me. I had no idea that I had been carrying a ten gallon bucket full of resentment until I stumbled upon it during one of my aimless circular tours. Another item I'd packed for my journey was a backpack of vices and unhealthy coping habits. I have scars on my shoulders from where the little creatures had escaped their confinement on my back and scratched at me for sustenance. Who would've thought that bad habits would be so starved for attention all the time?

I understand some of why I am made to endure such a long trek. I see the mountain ahead of me and it's far more steep than the hill I came from. It's going to take some strength and stamina to conquer the climb to surrendering. I used to think surrender meant lying supine, gazing upward to a benevolent puppeteer in the sky. I actually like that thought sometimes, especially when the terrain is harsh and unforgiving to my sore feet. But it's after those days that I am given the cup of living water that never runs dry, the bread of life that fills you with one bite, and the fruit of the vine that gives my sleep a deep supernatural peace. I forget the pain and anguish of the day before and awake with songs of worship filling my mind and mercies like sun rays shining upon my sleepy face.

Sometimes Jesus, Himself visits me on the path. Usually He is smiling and cheering me on but sometimes when I am especially weary He lifts me up with His arms and walks in step with me. There have been moments when He just embraces me and lets me cry. I say things like, "Please, my Lord, tell me that it's all worth it. Show me a vision of things to come." He gently reminds me that my fallen nature would begin to build rickety dreams loosely based on those visions. He flashes images of the tragic and self-indulgent projects that left me empty and hurting. He turns me back to see the ghostly carnival of selfish ambition and I blink at a glint of sunlight that stabs at my eyes from an old metal structure. I change my prayer into, "Lord, help me trust You. I'm still carrying too many pictures of what I think is best. I feel dragged and pulled at by voices from that dream-ridden hillside. Thank You for being here even when I long for the Egypt of my old ways. Thank You for being patient and never leaving me alone."

As we all make progress on our unique pilgrimage to total surrender, I hope we can find one another on the way. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not meant to journey alone. We become the oasis and the place of safety for one another when we reach out with Jesus' love during times of faltering. Thanks to all my friends and family who help pick me up when I am down. Thanks most of all to my Lord who rescues me every single time and without fail.

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