I watched a crane put together a 10-metre tall Christmas Tree in the city a week or so ago. Piece by piece it was lifted into place while a group of 5 or 6 workmen in high visibility vests perfected the placement of shiny glass baubles. What a sight.
Bright neon vests screaming ‘pay attention’ to what is going on here, while traffic trundled past below and pedestrians marched quickly, bracing against the wind.
That’s the Advent season these days. A race against the clock, constructed by the most unlikely people while everyone else races around completing their business. But Advent, deconstructed or otherwise, still matters regardless of your religious beliefs. It screams out, ‘Notice me – I have something to remind you of.’
Advent is a story about leaning in, expecting and waiting. It’s a story about how we hope for better days, the kind of story our humanity needs to hear at least once a year.
You see, I’m beginning to think that a dream alone is not enough to keep us going. In fact, I have been convinced that a dream isn’t powerful at all. The only power a dream has is the focus and motivation it gives you to take the steps required to achieve it.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, save money, shake a habit or create a new one – then you’ve tasted a tiny piece of what it’s like. The dream requires lots of action, but they are mostly very human actions. They are based in the natural world.
I’ve become more convinced that dreams need action and longing. Longing and desire are what keeps a dream alive, when hope seems lost. Hope is a supernatural kind of thing. Action comes from within us, but hope is something external and internal that we hold on to. Longing taps into the spiritual within us and dreams need both. Without longing, the dream can become dry and our motivation can ebb away. We lose both our internal and external power.
I’ve got a dream that feels out of reach and almost impossible to realise. So over the last few years, I’ve stopped praying for it, hoping for it and believing in it. I’ve stopped letting the longing for it dwell anywhere but in my deepest secret heart. Slowly, I’ve been starving my dream so that it’s easier to live in the Not-Yet reality, but it’s having an impact on what actions I’m prepared to take to achieve the dream. I’ve leaned back out of my dream, I’ve stopped hoping and expecting.
I’ve got to long for it again, letting the longing bubble up into my conversations with others. I can’t hide it away and pretend like it has no hold on me. I’ve got to seek it, praying and asking others to believe alongside me is crucial to help me lean in and get stronger in pursuit of it. Sharing my longing so that the dream stays strong and alive within me is necessary.
Advent is a season of expectancy and waiting. We eagerly await holidays, Christmas parties, gift-giving, time with family and friends. We await the New Year with expectation of what will come and what we have the chance to leave behind. And in the ancient story the Advent comes from, there’s an extraordinary example of what it means to lean into a dream – something so out of the ordinary and hard to understand that Mary’s only option is to lean forward and say, ‘Ok, let it be with me as you have said’.
Regardless of whether you believe the story to be myth or truth, this story has had a remarkable impact on our human history. Nobody questions the courage of a young teenage Jewish girl under Roman rule to lean in and say ‘Ok, I’m in it for the ride’.
Look, sometimes I feel afraid to share that longing and pursue my dreams because I’m scared that I’m asking for the wrong things. But there is no Plan B – so by sharing my longing and seeking ways for my dream to become reality, I am inspired to steps I should be taking along the way or to realign my heart to alternate pathways. At the very least, by praying and meditating more regularly on my dreams – I am comforted in the Not-Yet season.
Pursuing a dream out of nothing but our own strength is sure to wear you down. No matter the dream, we are spiritual beings and we need to integrate that into every part of our lives. So a dream by itself is not powerful and human actions alone are also not enough. Deep resonant dream-pursuing requires our whole self… spirit, mind and body.
I’m re-aligning my dream-chasing muscles with longing, expectation and leaning in to hope. What are you dreaming for? How are you leaning into it? There are 15 days left until the New Year begins. What will you enter it dreaming of and longing for?
This post was originally written for World Vision USA and adapted here for tashmcgill.com.