Dreaming is dangerous business. When one dreams, a risk is taken to open the mind and heart to possibilities unknown. Dreaming most usually requires embracing uncertainty. And dreaming can mean failure. The last time I took a chance on a dream it ended in failure.
For this reason among others associated with it (unwrapped through years of counseling) I have made it a habit not to dream. Instead, it had become my goal to be one who would “live quietly in the land.” (Psalm 35:20) Living a simple, low profile life seemed the safest option for a soul so scarred and afraid. I took a simple job that I am most over-educated and over-qualified for. I work an hourly wage with no benefits and live hand-to-mouth. I abandoned all ambition and goal-setting in favor of subsisting on as little as possible in order to draw as little attention to myself as required because dreaming proved too dangerous a proposition.
But something has awoken a part of me I thought long dead. Recently, as I have been driving my bus full of children along the semi-rural west Cobb County roads in the early morning, I find myself lost in a dream. Maybe it is due to the picturesque landscapes or just due to necessity to drown out the din coming from the seats behind me. I tend to think it happens when I become focused on what I am teaching when I return to the learning center where I instruct Pre-K students until early afternoon.
As the sun is dawning on grassy fields, I try to recall the day’s lessons and skills. My favorite times have become when I am teaching our units on conservation and environmental awareness. I find myself imagining being able to go further than the constricts of my classroom and curriculum allow. I wonder what it would be like to teach these things on the land, alongside creation. And in my mind, suddenly, I am teaching “creation care” together with conservation.
I imagine a group of rowdy four and five-year olds wrist deep in a worm farm. I think about what it would mean to have them compost their food scraps from snack and lunch – or put them aside to feed them to goats, sheep and a pig. I envision teaching them where their food comes from and how to care deeply for that place. I can picture guiding them through planning, cultivating, planting, caring for and harvesting vegetables. I realize in my mind all the real life skills I would be teaching as I did this thing. Before I know it, I am driving the bus through the center’s driveway and it is time to stop the dream.
I still know that it is dangerous to dream. I am happily embracing living simply, quietly and peacefully in the land. However, day by day I feel myself detaching from reality more often so that I can re-enter this place of my imagination. In that place, I feel peace, happiness and purpose. There is not really an “ambition” attached to this place – only that it be a place of safety where “even the sparrow has found a nest.” (Psalm 84:3)
Very recently, we found a small nest snugly constructed in the corner of our raised herb garden. In it we found five round, pink eggs and a sweet mother bird who has chosen our place of refuge as her own. While some might find this a nuisance, we took it as a high complement from creation that we had been found worthy of such honor. She trusts us. We must be quiet enough, simple enough, peaceful enough for her to find faith in our space.
It feels as if the world at large needs more places for sparrows to find a nest. Maybe it isn’t wrong to dream of becoming that place.