The Freedom of Dreaming
In our modern culture, it can be very simple to skip over the dreaming phase. We can become so absorbed in our to-do lists and the pressing things that need to get done now, that dreaming can begin to feel irrelevant, unimportant, or simply a luxury for those who have lots of extra time on their hands. However, Scripture reminds us the importance of dreaming: Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." This week, Cageless Birds staff member Allie Sampson shares a little bit on her journey with dreaming and how the Lord has taught her the importance of tending to your heart through stewarding dreams. As you read her perspective, may you be inspired to open up your heart and approach dreaming with the Father again.
In 2013, I found myself back at A Place for the Heart for an 8 month internship. This was an exciting time for me. From childhood, I had dreamt into what I wanted my life to look like—all the things I wanted to do and have and accomplish—and doing this internship was the last tangible thing on the list. It was as far as I had gotten in the Career Column of my ideal life. A few weeks into the internship, after the newness had worn off, I found anxiety frequently creeping into my heart: This internship only lasts for eight months… and two of those are already gone! What happens when it’s over? What will I do next?
The questions would hit me out of nowhere and work their way into my stomach—twisting knots and working up coils of confusion. In those first two months, when I would take these worries to the Father, I heard Him say, “Relax. Rest. Enjoy. This is all I need from you right now.” It was the same thing He spoke to me countless times during my 18 Inch Journey. He was defending my season, ensuring that I didn’t get robbed by obsessing over the future.
About three months in, however, there was a shift. On a quiet afternoon in the Farmhouse, I felt the familiar tension in my stomach: Time is going too fast. This will all be over so soon—too soon. I looked to the Father and prepared for the resounding echo of Relax, Rest, Enjoy in my soul, but it did not come. Instead, I heard a new invitation:
“Allie, you’re worried. You’ve forgotten how to dream. Let’s practice!”
“What, Lord?” came from the quiet and caught-off-guard place in my heart.
“I don’t know what you mean. How do I do that?”
He answered kindly, “Allie, you have forgotten how to dream into your life. You’ve confused planning for dreaming, and you’re trying to skip steps. You’re trying to dream, but you’re holding back, immediately feeling responsible for making those dreams come to life. You’re afraid of big ideas, big dreams, because ultimately, you think that I’ll hold you accountable to them before you’re actually ready to commit. That’s not who I am. I want to teach you how to enjoy the freedom of dreaming, without the pressure of obligation.”
I want to teach you how to enjoy the freedom of dreaming, without the pressure of obligation.
I was dumbfounded. Totally convicted, and honestly, a little offended. I knew He was right, but I didn’t like being told I’d been dreaming wrong. My perspective of dreaming had been reduced to a simple formula:
- Come up with an impressive idea.
- Make a fail-proof plan.
When I achieved a dream, it satisfied my ego, but my not my heart. I felt like I had impressed God with my ability to do something amazing, but did not experience the joy of feeling known and answered. This backwards way of thinking only served my pride, building up the scaffolding of my spiritual résumé, and in the end all it was producing was anxiety and suspicion. It was in His kindness that He tore the whole system down—and He did it with joy.
In response to His invitation, I grabbed my journal and a pen. I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, Holy Spirit. I’m ready. Teach me how to dream.” The response that followed was simple: “Allie, I just want you to think of all the fun and amazing things you could do with your life.” Easy enough—or so I thought. I unleashed my imagination to roam as it wanted. Familiar dreams came up first: Visit New Zealand, which were quickly followed by: That’s going to be expensive. I’ll have to wait a while to make that one happen. Do I know anybody in New Zealand I could stay with? I probably won’t want to go alone, so I should figure out who else may want to go. I should get on that now so they have enough time to prepare… Holy Spirit interrupted, “You’re planning, not dreaming. Where’s your joy?”
Taking a deep breath, I started again. This time, writing down every idea I had—big, small, silly, practical—before I had a chance to analyze and criticize it. I made a list of all the things I could think of, and when I finally slowed down, I felt a rush of exhilaration and freedom. My heart was coming alive. I felt the Holy Spirit smile, then gently nudge, “Pick one! Let’s unpack it without the pressure.” This next step was another challenge. I picked one from the list that I’d never given any thought before: “Open a tucked-away, independent book store.” At first, I felt the temptation to consider only the logistics: I don’t know the first thing about running a business. I don’t have a business degree… or really want one. I waited and let the Holy Spirit gently guide my mind back to the dream. Suddenly I was overcome with images of rich mahogany shelves full of antique books covered in jewel-tone linen. Old leather chairs and couches tucked into hidden corners where patrons could take a new book for a spin. Large windows where natural light could kiss old and new pages alike during the day and warm lamps to keep the books known and seen in evening hours. Lots and lots of plants to make sure no one was lost to a cave-like environment while being sucked into their fascinating story. An underground publishing company—literally—in the basement of the building where we printed work we believed in, not just work that satisfied a book contract.
I wandered around this dream for an hour or so, exploring the nooks and crannies of the book shop that could be. And when I finally closed the shop for the night, cut out the last lamp and locked the front door behind me, I drifted back to my seat in the Farmhouse. There He was, Jesus, smiling at me with complete satisfaction. We were both proud.
This moment changed my perspective on dreaming, and also my perspective on engaging my heart. My heart is not a burden to be micro-managed or a complicated puzzle to be solved. She is someone to be known. Viewing my dreams as obligations robbed me of getting to know myself, and ultimately, robbed me of intimacy with the Trinity.
Dreaming makes space for us to experience the Father’s favor and play an active part in His vision for us.
The reality is that dreaming is what prepares a way for us to feel answered and significant to the Lord. When we dream, we are getting vulnerable and honest with our own hearts about what we want, where we see possibility and where there is room for an upgrade in our lives. To dream with the Lord is to say, “I believe in this heart you have given me. I am in unity with Your truth: That I am good in your eyes, that I am valuable to You and that I am capable of amazing things.” Dreaming makes space for us to experience the Father’s favor and play an active part in His vision for us.
Prompt: Have you ever approached dreaming with this formula?
- Come up with an impressive idea.
- Make a fail-proof plan.
How is this way of approaching your heart keeping you from enjoying the dreaming process? Grab your journal and a pen, and pray this prayer: “Holy Spirit, I invite you into my dreaming. I recognize that every dream in my heart is beautiful because you put it there! Holy Spirit, help me explore the desires and ideas that you planted in my heart.” Now is your time to practice! List as many dreams as you can think of that are in your heart. Remember, there is no pressure here. Avoid planning and over-thinking. When you’re done, invite the Holy Spirit to help you unpack one dream with Him, and enjoy the freedom of exploring your heart with the Lord. Write these ideas down in your journal and let the Father's smile wash over you as you let Him introduce you to parts of your heart you may have not known before!