For the past month, my church has been thinking about God’s dreams. Our pastors just finished a sermon series called, “Dare to Dream,” exploring Scripture passages that connect in some way with dreams. We’ve read about the Magi studying the stars, looking upward and letting the heavens guide them to Jesus. We’ve considered Jacob’s dream at Bethel as God’s reassurance for Jacob’s present and future. We’ve seen John of Patmos dream of a better future through his visions in Revelation. And we’ve explored Joseph’s dreams, the obstacles he faced, and the way God brought those dreams about despite Joseph’s many setbacks. We’ve wondered about our dreams but also about God’s, and where the two intersect. For the whole month, our pastors have invited us to ask God, “What is your dream for my life?”
On the final Sunday of the series, the ushers gave us each a star as we entered worship, and there were sharpies in the pews. During a period of silence and reflection at the end of the service, our pastors encouraged us to write our dream on the star we’d been given.
I’m a born dreamer, but as I sat there with a sharpie in my hand, I hesitated. I have some dreams for my involvement in the local church and what we might do together, and some others related to my work as an editor. I have dreams for my family. I’d like to see all of those dreams fulfilled, because they are important. I work toward them in some small way every week. But in truth, none of them are the dream, the wild dream, the one that feels too enormous even to say out loud, much less try to bring about. That dream is both huge and silly, as dreams often are. Should I write it down? Or would it be better to write one of those smaller, more attainable dreams, easier for others to relate to and share?
I took a deep breath, and took the cap off the sharpie. What the heck, I thought. If I’m gonna dream, might as well dream big. Church on Mars, I wrote. It took a small leap of faith to write that down on my star. And then another small leap to put it in the basket along with everyone else’s stars and dreams.
A few days later, my wife and I were having lunch with one of our pastors. Our conversation turned to the stars from that past Sunday, and the pastor asked if I was the one who wrote about a church on Mars. “Of course,” I said with a laugh. She knows of my weird interest in all thing space.
“Were you being serious?” she asked. “Of course,” I said.
I shared with her that this isn’t my only dream, and it’s not the only way I’m seeking God’s will for my life. Still, I feel like it’s something that’s come from God, that blends my unique interests and ideas. I went on to explain how the end of our “Dare to Dream” series felt like the time for dreaming big, so I dared to write the big, silly dream.
In truth, that dream is what led me to start my blog last year, to start reading about space and physics, and to begin and thinking about the intersection of these things with Christian theology. I had a dawning realization that humans might colonize Mars in the next 25-50 years, and that it might happen quite apart from the Christian faith, or any faith, for that matter. I had a dream of human communities pushing the boundaries of our very existence, and I wanted to be sure that Christianity—its values, its practices, its understanding about God and the universe and what it means to be human—shapes that journey and those communities, because the Christian faith holds something valuable, meaningful, indeed vital for human flourishing. I felt God calling me in some small way to turn the eyes of Christian people toward the stars, because our fellow humans’ eyes are turning that way and we need to take notice, for their sake and for ours. I had a dream of God’s grace going on ahead of people wherever human life exists, even if it’s literally on another planet or off in space somewhere.
It’s not my only dream; it’s not even my most important dream. But it is my big one, my wild one, the one that requires a daring leap of imagination. I don’t even know what steps to take toward it, except that the first step must be to own it, write it down, and share it with somebody else.
I’m not even sure the steps matter all that much. It’s such a long-term dream. I probably won’t live to see a church actually planted on Mars, much less have anything to do with making it happen, but that’s ok. I have a hunch that the many of our big dreams get fulfilled after we die anyway. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob didn’t live to see the great nation that their children would become. It didn’t stop Abraham from looking up at the stars and hearing God’s promises. It didn’t stop Jacob from dreaming either.