When I was a teenager growing up in the South Side of Columbus, Ohio, the future was not looking very bright. With the Vietnam war looming over the horizon, graduation to most of my friends meant either joining up or being drafted into the army. It was hard to think about planning a career back then. Finances for college were not normally available for the boys in my neighborhood, and jobs for teenagers were not plentiful either.
Often I would take my study hall time in the school’s library and read magazines. One day my eyes came upon stories of dreamers. Young people all across the nation began to dream of a better world. They were called the Flower Children. I began to sense a mood of optimism myself. One story that impacted me most powerfully was about a speech I read in one of the magazines then. It was Dr. Martin Luther King’s landmark speech, “I Have a Dream.”
“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”
He went on to describe a dream (not an impossible dream, but one he believed could come true), of a nation that lived up to it’s ideals, ideals that were born out of Biblical prophecies.
While Dr. King’s specific concern was for the injustices done in those days to his fellow African-Americans, many poor white Americans could find hope in these words and in their desire to share in the American Dream as well. Many of us struggled to get ahead in the same neighborhoods and faced many of the same barriers to prosperity.
Sadly, what I remember hearing in the churches of my childhood was not so hope-filled and optimistic. We were often told that this world would never get better, only worse. We were to find hope only in the after-life. It wasn’t until years later that I found in the Bible not only promises to a wonderful existence after death, but that we could also have a taste of heaven while here on earth! Not only could we have a better life inwardly, but we could also be used of God to lighten up this dark world! This too was part of the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Often today we are encouraged to “follow our dreams,” and others will be happy to tell you of how they sought for and achieved their dreams. I get it. There is more to life than following the script that was given to us. But in my case I had to discover a dream that is greater than what I sought before. This dream is actually a vision of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Yes, there will be peace on this earth because God Himself has determined it.
The very reason that Dr. King’s speech was so convicting, so powerful was that it was about the Heart of God Himself.
What He wants today is our agreement with Him. I cannot say that my life is always better because of my hope in the Kingdom of God. In fact there are times when it does look like an impossible dream, yet that hope will not leave me. It sustains me, giving me energy to continue in His plan. Materially, things are better for my family, but that is not even the goal. Maybe the Hippy idealism that I was exposed to in the sixties was what I needed then, but today I know about the courage it takes to bring those ideals into reality, and I know where that courage comes from!
May all of us become gripped with the hope that empowered the early Christians to endure great hardship for their King and the advance of His Kingdom of love, joy and peace in this earth!