In HOPE
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David Timms 

Issue 5.14

Ministry Resource

My reflections this week arise from reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book Life Together (Harper & Row, 1954, 122 pages). Bonhoeffer wrote this short treatise in 1938, while leading an "illegal" clandestine seminary during the Nazi era.

HOPE Happenings

Next week is the Spring Commencement here at Hope International University. We celebrate the graduation of many hard-working students on Saturday, May 21st, at 10am.

Discarding My Fantasies

Fantasies rarely shape reality. More often, they simply frustrate it. When we fantasize, we idealize something. And we fantasize in almost every area of life - wealth, power, sex, marriage, children, and church (to name but a few). 

 

Some fantasies seem harmless enough and perhaps even noble. We imagine what a great marriage would be like, if only this or that could be changed. We dream about a more attractive church, if only the leaders - or the congregants - would change in some way. But therein lies the danger. We romanticize how things could be, and miss the grace of God in what is.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: "Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."

 

How easily we travel into the wishful world, and find that its fruit is often a critical spirit. "A truly godly leader would ... If only this worship service was ... These people are just not ... My marriage would be so much better if ... Etc." Our fantasies and idealism, rarely grounded in reality, serve only to fuel a fire of unholy discontent.

 

We imagine how the Church or Christian community could be, and when it falls short, we are bruising in our reaction. We love the fantasy, but not the people.

 

I don't want to negate the value of visionary leadership or pressing towards maturity. But a chasm exists between vision and fantasy, and between maturity and naive idealism. Some of us have formulated ideals that no living person or real community could attain. This fantasy then breeds frustration, not motivation.

 

We've often heard that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Eventually, however, we cross most of the fences and realize that the grass is consistently the same. The problem lies in our perspective.

 

"He who loves his dream of community more than the community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter."

 

How deeply do we love those who've been given to us? Or do we long more deeply for those who don't exist?

 

Our fantasies, well-intentioned as they may be, do more harm than good. They blind us to grace in the present moment. They discourage and disillusion us. They undermine the "fellowship of the fallen", and they isolate us from those given to us. Such fantasies harm our marriages, our children, our churches ... and us.

 

Let's discard these seductive phantoms, the "perfect" people and places, before we damage the real gift that we already have.

 

In  HOPE -

Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831

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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

For back issues of In HOPE, see http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/