The pursuit of one’s “dreams” plays a major role in the American mind as it contemplates education and vocation. Many of us have grown up privileged with opportunity, and so it comes naturally to plan large and think big for ourselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with hope; in fact, the Bible exalts it, albeit after it has defined it in Christward categories. But as one carries one’s hopes and chases those wispy dreams, it seems wise to consider that which we are not often told today: things may not work out. The rose may grow a thorn, the crop may die, and the rejection notice may come. We ought not to let such thinking bully our hopes, but we ought at least to consider it.
Realistic optimism places one in contrast to the world’s thinking, where people seem to haphazardly chase their goals with little thought of failure. One simply sights the telos and runs headlong after it. Would-be CEOs become could-have-been addicts. Worldview-changing scholars morph into disgruntled armchair theologians. Nation-building diplomats settle into paper-pushing jobs, and grumble as they do so. This is the way of the world. Set the sights glowingly high, run, and then try to deal with what comes. It ought not to be so for Christians. We ought to sight the dream, pursue it with trust and without anxiety, and enjoy life as the will of God paints it. To do so, we’ve got to hold our dreams lightly. Hold them, yes; pursue them, yes; but knowing that the dream is not the end. Those heights are reserved for the Scriptural purpose of life: loving, knowing, embracing, enjoying God. That is the dream that does not die, the hope that does not fade.