The first time I heard someone call it God’s Dream it was my own voice reading Desmond Tutu’s words (which were paraphrasing Jesus) to my children.
Everyone who wants to see God’s dream come true must see with the eyes of a child.
Desmond Tutu, Children of God Storybook Bible
Something in me stirred.
“The Kingdom of Heaven” is sometimes taught to mean the place we go when we die (or the place we don’t go if we watch Beavis & Butthead). For those paying more attention, it’s something to do with our time on earth, but it’s still forward-looking. Heaven is away, up, and more perfect than we can even imagine.
But could God’s vision for all of this be that we bide our time until we can escape? Or does God care about lilies and birds like Jesus foolishly suggested.
I can say that something in me also stirred, when I watched Mr. Rogers and the black officer from his neighborhood put their feet in a kiddie pool together when pools were segregated. It stirred when I read about a single mother and her child, refugees themselves with few resources, hiding a man on the run for truth-telling even though it cost them what little security they had. It stirs during Steve Carrell’s last episode of The Office (all 128 times I’ve viewed it). It stirred when that guy on Jeopardy wrote “We love you, Alex” as his answer after Alex Trebek was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. It stirred the other day when I heard my son tell his brother that God loves him.
It’s a physical feeling in my chest as emotion rises and my thoughts catch up to what something deep in me knows; knows about justice and reconciliation and courage and truth. How the Big Scary Things are coming into sync with something ultimately Right, fundamentally Good.
It knows, too, that showing up for one particular person – by singing them a surprise song summing up your history or losing $2000 to let him know you care if he dies or telling him that the creator of the Universe is particularly fond of him – is also bringing this world into alignment.
Tim Sorens says in his new book,
[God’s] breathtaking dream of healing is macro and micro, collective and individual, relational and systemic; it’s all of it.
It probably stirs you, too.
Something in us knows it is possible for this all to be the way we long for it to be. We know there is enough food to take care of hunger, enough air for all of us to breathe, enough clean water and safe homes and creativity to make this place what it could be. We buy houseplants and twinkle lights and make our rooms a little prettier to pull out their potential and something in us understands that this isn’t just for Pinterest.
Something in us remembers.
They say children can be cruel, but before that they are kind. Before they pick up the way they’re supposed to feel ashamed and toss it over like a hot potato into the next kid’s lap, they’re just honest. They point out differences in others as a point of interest, not derision. In my kindergarten the girls chased boys around the play yard for fun and everyone stopped when someone cried, and Vanessa A. stood under the big rainbow structure shouting her faith in me when I sat at the top too scared to come down. We made friends by saying, “Do you want to be my friend?” and our loyalties were born with the answer.
But we’re here now, and we forget. Human trafficking and disease and deeply corrupted governments abound. We know it can be better, but we cannot for the literal life of us figure out how. We can’t even recall the playground. So we look for threats and try to abolish them one by one. Take down this politician, enact this legislation, address this oppression…
People argue on social media with vehemence and vitriol as if they are not typing to an actual person – possibly even a real life loved one.
A very popular pastor-turned-blogger posts some of the most hateful things I’ve ever read directed at Trump supporters as if they are not full and thoughtful humans loved by God.
Another man who markets his religion posts hateful diminutive things about “lefties” as if they are too stupid to engage with.
Some people don’t want to wear masks and some people do and both camps throw grenades of insult and accusation at each other: fearful, stupid, sheeple; selfish, stupid, conspiracists.
Actual blood related families forgo Thanksgiving because they voted for different people and policies.
Real life communities – not just online – are built on shared ideas or identities, membership determined by homogeny and outsiders are vilified.
And it makes sense. Our brains scheme to confirm our biases because there is just a lot to sort out between eyeballs and a relatively new prefrontal cortex and it’s so much easier not to have to rethink what we’ve already settled. Our way-back ancestors needed to stick to their tribes in order to survive so they developed tight attachments to what they knew and hostile skepticism to anything outside of that.
But the very thing that has kept our species alive for so long also hurts us. Because the biggest threat we face isn’t Trump or racism or COVID.
It’s the way we make versus out of verses about justice and shalom. Divide over warnings of division by a man who was killed for his inclusion. It’s the us we coalesce our unique selves into that requires an “other” and the way the whole thing dehumanizes everybody.
We are not all the same in every way. We embody vastly different expressions of race, politic, sexuality, gender, social role, economic status, occupation, etc. It would be silly to ignore those things. But we are not primarily any of those things, either.
God’s Dream is not that we pretend we are all the same, but that we see the world the way children do – the way we ourselves used to see it. That nobody is in or out, we’re all just here together doing our best and wondering what glue tastes like or spreading it on our hand or just like marveling at the miracle of glue, really, it is amazing stuff and are there really horse hooves in there?
It certainly gets more complicated. My kindergarten class didn’t have white supremacists or Marxists in it (that I know of). We weren’t dealing with a global pandemic. We didn’t know about injustices that didn’t have to do with recess.
But the things that could have divided us didn’t until it did (in like, 1st grade or whatever – it didn’t take Adam and Eve long to fall either). There was a time before.
We would always have to learn about hierarchies and power dynamics. We’d always have to learn the histories of our families and our regions and our world through imperfect lenses. We would always want to please our parents and adopt their worldview, flawed and unreasonable though they may be. We would always fall into the part of being human that has both kept the species going and kept it from flourishing to its full.
It was inevitable and I don’t even think it makes sense to call it wrong. But it is less than what we could be.
Jesus was not the only person to submit for our consideration that there is another way. Christ invites humanity into God’s Dream which is to say, into Wholeness. Christ invites us to remember who we are – children on the playground who ask to be each others’ friends – and to pair it with what we know – that there are problems we have to deal with and a creation which cannot wait for Kingdom Come.
God’s dream is that we be a part of the creative good now. Here. That we work with what we’ve got to pull whatever we conceive of Heaven down here into earth and enjoy it before we die (and maybe after, too).
So this is the hope I breathe in and out, a paper bag held to my face when all I can see is how wildly the world is spinning. God’s Dream catches my spirit and stirs something in me that grounds me to what I know. There is no us and them, and someday we’ll all remember.