Somewhere in the Rome of 200 AD, a child sat in a public square filled with citizens and slaves, among the venders selling food and idols, and he dreamed. He had just heard the words of Paul's epistle to Philemon, and he dreamed of a day when slavery would have died out because all men would have realized that they were made in God's image and belonged to God first, and you should never abuse any of God's treasures. He imagined Caesar's cold armies transformed by love to build up rather than destroy, to liberate rather than crush.
During the Depression, when dreams were hard to come by, a child imagined a better world, and as he grew, he wrote stories that stirred the imagination of others. This week, we lost that child when Ray Bradbury died. In short stories, novels, and screenplays, he explored the human spirit. He was good at seeing the enemies of our personal humanity and confronted them as he best knew how. He was not a believer, but he was created in the image of God and was true to his art, and that is enough sometimes to discern truth.
Dreams are important to the human spirit. Crush someone's dreams and pessimism and depression take over. Kill dreams and tradition and the status quo become king. Tyrants hate dreams... and, sadly, so do some Christians.
We like what we can control, but we can't control dreams. We can encourage and inform the dreamer or we can try to kill the imagination. But be warned, if you attempt the latter, you will find yourself an enemy of God. I fear we are losing a generation because of the fear, pessimism, and deadly cynicism of their elders. Elders without vision, without dreams, rob those around them of life. There are already too many dead bodies in our wake.
Bradbury wrote of Martians that he knew did not exist so he could create a mirror for human greed, ambition, and uncertainty. He did it not to depress us, but to wake us up and protect us. He wrote of the perverse fascination that exists in any crowd witnessing a tragedy in the hopes that we would examine our hearts. In everything, he reminded us of childhood wonders and the innocence that accompanies us. From his stories we can better understand Jesus' command to come to him as a child. Bradbury wasn't a believer, but a knowledge of the gospel still bounced around a lot of his fiction.
I have heard young couple agonize over the decision to bring a child into this fallen time instead of dreaming about the impact their child could make in a needy world. Don't fear for the next generation. Invest in them, prepare them, and then unleash them. Let them dream of what God could do with their lives.
Too many Christians have let the nightly news, false prophets of doom, and scared preachers kick the living heaven out of them. If you have stopped dreaming, become convicted that the darkness is too strong, can't imagine a way forward, then you are no longer hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. You have given way to the voice of this age. It's time to jump start your imagination. You might as well start with a passionate, observant dreamer such as Ray Bradbury. I don't agree with all he has to say, but he will wake you up to the human spirit (created by God) and help you dream again. Then take that attitude back to Scripture and watch God's dreams explode from the page.