Taken In By A Dream

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 

Romans 8: 24 (NRSV)

Have you ever been the target of a telephone or email scam? You know, the ones that promise you a trip, windfall, or some other outlandish reward in exchange for private information or a sum of money. Have you ever been fooled by one? 
Maybe not. Maybe the deception is just too glaring. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. 

I like to think I know when I’m being scammed. It’s important for me to know, because I strive to be street smart and shrewd. I’m a natural skeptic, and I try to think critically and judiciously to avoid being taken in by anything too incredible.

Ironically, though, I still cling to the Gospel message, which is the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard. The more I think on it, the more extraordinary it becomes. 

Christ preached love, compassion, welcome, and forgiveness only to be betrayed and killed. Yet He forgave His tormentors and overcame their underlying darkness through the triumph of the Resurrection. 

He continues to forgive and overcome even now. That is the most unfathomable part. 

You see, in some seasons, I question all this. When my life is overrun with grief or strain. When the world news shows suffering, contention, and ugliness. When nonbelievers around me scoff at my affection for what they perceive to be an anachronism—my faith in a relic of a bygone era. 

During times like these, I confess, I often look into my spiritual inbox, see the subject line “OFFER” blinking at me with its promise of grace and redemption for everyone, and I ask, “Have I been taken in?”

This world just doesn’t look like the kind of place that’s had grace and redemption offered to it. I don’t always look like that either. Has it all been too good to be true?

In one of the most dramatic scenes in C.S. Lewis’s classic story The Silver Chair, the antagonist attempts to bewitch the book’s heroes into believing everything in the bright world they know, including the great Aslan, is only a dream. The pessimistic, yet faithful Puddleglum replies: 

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all these things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that in that case, the made up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing... Four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.*

The fact is, God is ever invisible, and I wouldn’t have a clue how to prove Him in a black and white sense. When I look around or even inside, I don’t always see the evidence of His touch. I often see a world that treats Him as a notion at best. 
Yet the notion that Scripture and prayer have revealed to me are far from unreal. In them, I’ve discovered a Father who has all the attentiveness and faithfulness I missed with my earthly father. In them, I’ve seen Christ, a perfect example of self-sacrificing love and mercy that is mirrored in only the strongest and realest relationships I’ve known.
I’ve seen this notion inspire chronically closed hearts to open, accept, and give. This notion drives people out of their self-absorption and into frank and caring relationships with one another. And throughout the life of the Church, this notion has led very fallible men and women to serve in strange, dangerous environments, even at the price of their own lives. 
The hope of the Gospel is so pure, so intense that it does indeed make the real world seem hollow. Have we been taken in by a dream to cling to this hope? 
I believe the answer is, “Yes.” It’s a beautiful, life-giving dream that we are each anointed to realize every single day. 

*Lewis, C. S. (2005). The silver chair. New York, NY: HarperCollins.


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