What to Do with Your Pipe Dreams?

PipeWe’ve all had dreams of the future, and the exciting possibilities that can unfold in our future. These dreams fill us with enthusiasm for future feats and potential advances in our lives, or in the lives of those around us. Dreams are the stuff of hope and vision.

But what happens when life intervenes in ways that tend to dampen the vision? Or worse yet, what happens when the storms of life drench the dreams with such soggy reality that our past dreams slide inexorably toward that awful basket of derelict visions labeled “Pipe Dreams.” When enough past dreams collect in that basket, it is easy to let vision die. It is just too painful to see our dreams shattered by life’s realities. As a result, we tend to limit our vision, and dream only safe dreams, mundane dreams, dreams that will not change the world.

I can imagine Abram’s dreams sliding toward that dreaded basket of broken vision. He was convinced he had heard from God about a son. Yet night after night, as he glanced toward the stars, he knew he was no closer to fulfilling the vision. His vision for this dream was so dead that when the Lord showed up to tell him the vision was about to be fulfilled, he tried to argue him out of it (see Genesis 17:15-20). That is a dead vision.

I can imagine Joseph’s dreams turning to ashes as he saw his brothers’ camp fading in the distance while being transported to Egypt for an unknown fate. His dreams had been so real. The whispers of the night had made him believe he was destined to lead, to rule.

Perhaps Joseph’s stay at Potiphar’s house had sparked hope. His gifts were being recognized as he served an official of Pharaoh’s court. But if hope had been kindled, the torrential rains of reality quickly extinguished them in a prison cell. Prison reality so limited Joseph’s dreams that his primary hope was simply to get free from prison (see Genesis 40:14-15). As a prisoner in Egypt, he was among the least of the least in that nation. Any dreams of leading or ruling had become embarrassing memories of childish ambition.

I can imagine Moses’ dreams being flattened by his reality. He had dreamed of being Israel’s deliverer, raised up in amazing special privilege to become the hero of the hour. At the point when it seemed that his dreams were on the cusp of being fulfilled, when his true people would turn to him in hope, and his influence with his adopted people would pave the way, he was rejected by his fellow Israelites and hunted as a criminal by his peers. Forty years of reflection on his colossal blunders, and the stark reality of life on the backside of the desert, had so smashed his early dreams of being Israel’s deliverer, that he told God to send someone else to do the job (see Exodus 4:13).

Dreams can turn to disappointment. Disappointment stokes the fire of disillusion. Eventually the original vision has been relegated to the bin of embarrassing pipe dreams.

What do you do with that bin? Do you ignore it, and shudder with shame every time a memory shard works its way to the surface? Do you dust the pipe dreams off on occasion to use as a cautionary tale aimed at correcting youthful idealism? Or do you bitterly reflect on what might have been?

I have a suggestion. Take that collection of old and broken dreams and offer them up to God. Give him an opportunity to breathe on them. In the Bible stories I have mentioned above, the characters involved were confined in roles that had diminished their original dreams. As a result, they lost vision. But then God breathed. He stirred up the currents of his Holy Wind, and vision became reality. Those who had lost vision could dream again.

Perhaps it’s time to let God breathe on your dreams. Give him permission to resurrect the dead husk of visions long past. You never know what wonderful notes the Lord may release through your pipe dreams as his Wind blows through them.

What do you do with Pipe Dreams? Every once in a while, you set them apart, and wait for the Wind to blow on them.


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Images credit: Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Crosshatch Filter