Of Dreams and Treasure

Pursuing the dream, we stumble upon the treasure. Will we recognize the value of that which is more valuable than the dream? We sail west looking for a short cut to India, and run into the New World. And see it, not as a treasure, but as a barrier to the dream, and keep looking for India.

The Northwest Passage was supposed to take the early explorers to the Far East. Then, they heard rumors of the Lost City of Gold, and the Fountain of Youth, and trudged past wonders looking for the new dream they had in mind. They sold Louisiana, and all that went with it, because what they were looking for wasn’t there. What they had was worth more than what they sought, but they couldn’t see it because they were in the grip of their idea of what mattered most.

Nothing has the power to transform our life like changing our mind about what is important. How does that happen? We call illusion “reality” until we hit the wall enough times to get to the end of our rope, and there, if we are lucky, we change our mind about what is important. A lot of people don’t. And that is just one of the tragedies of being human and having to figure things out on our own. Too many of us simply are not equipped to figure things out on our own, or don’t have what it takes to bear the pain of seeing how things are, and doing what needs to be done about it, anyway, nevertheless, even so.

On a photography trip to Maine, I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain at 5:50 AM. Sunrise was to happen at 6:45, but the good stuff, photographically speaking, is over by the time the sun actually comes up, so you have to be there early, to watch, and wait. When I got there, there were, maybe 50, maybe 80, photographers already there, setting up tripods, finding a spot, with more coming behind me. I wedged in between a couple of guys and settled in for what looked to be a promising sunrise. At 6:02 the fog moved in, and I couldn’t see the fellows at my elbows. The show was over. The people who gathered to photograph the sunrise, looked at each other, as well as they could, shrugged, packed up, and headed for breakfast and a cup of coffee. Three of us packed up and headed to Jordon Pond for shoreline compositions in the fog, which turned out to be better than the sunrise could have ever been. On our way to the dream, we found the treasure. Will we know it when you see it, is the question.

We have be looking beyond the treasure revealed by the dream. We have to know the tricks the Tao can play, and look beyond what we see—beyond what we have in mind—in order to see the value of what else is there. What can we do with what is there? How can we work with what we have? If we can’t realize our dream today, what can we do? If we can’t have the dream, what can we have? What can we do with what we have to work with?

Remain open to the possibility that something is there that is more valuable than the dream. Keep in mind that the dream may be our soul’s way of getting us going. The idea of sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is the ruse that gets us out of bed. Once in motion, we stumble onto Jordon Pond, and our soul smiles. That’s is how life works sometimes. For it to work, though, we have to play along. We have to be a good sport. There is more to life than what we have in mind. Don’t miss the treasure on the way to the dream! Or the photograph, on the way to the photograph!

The treasure we stumble upon doesn’t rule out the dream we have in mind—it doesn’t cancel out the dream. Maybe there will be a day when I get a sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, or the dogwood on the Middle Prong of Little River. The dreams keep us going. The trick is to keep our eyes open for the treasure along the way. That which is truly valuable is that which brings us to life, which brings to life that which is struggling to come to life, to unfold, emerge, within us.

The spiritual task is the unfolding of the self. Self-realization is the Promised Land of the scriptures. All of the scriptural themes—as I have said–exile and restoration, bondage and freedom, guilt and redemption, death and resurrection—play themselves out in the lives of those who take up the spiritual task, and live toward the unfolding of the self—the waking up to who we are and also are—within the context, and circumstances, and relationships of our lives. We are here to experience, explore, express the self we are built to be, called to be. We are here to be who we are, to be true to ourselves, to fulfill our destiny within the context, and circumstances, and relationships of our lives.

We are more of a treasure than any dream we seek in the treasure troves of the world.

That isn’t the gospel as you have ever heard it, but it’s the Gospel. It is heaven, and it is hell. I don’t know what the Greek word for “bad news” is, what the polar opposite of “evangel” is, but that’s what I’m telling you here. The best and worst thing you will ever hear is that you are here to be true to, and fulfill, your destiny within the context, circumstances and relationships of your life—that you are the dream/treasure you seek. It is an easier path to believe those who tell us that we will go to hell if we don’t obey the ten commandments, and believe in the atoning sacrifice of God’s only Son Jesus Christ our Lord. That gets it off our back. The position of the church has always been, “Give the cross to Jesus. That’s where it belongs.”

Ah, but, the bad news is that the good news is that Jesus did NOT come to us so that we could cover the world with cross graffiti. If we understood the cross, we would know very well that it is us up there with nails in our wrists and ankles. That is the true vicarious nature of Jesus’ death. Jesus doesn’t take our place, but we assume his place by living the life that is ours to live in the moment of our living, just as Jesus did. The cross, or something a lot like it, is the price we pay for being true to ourselves, and fulfilling our destiny within the context, circumstances, and relationships of our lives.

The context, circumstances, and relationships of our lives are out to get us. Understanding that and living toward the life that is ours to live—anyway, nevertheless, even so—is the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Journey, which winds through the heart of Gethsemane and across the face of Golgotha, and on to the Empty Tomb.

Jesus’ body, broken for us, his blood, poured out for us, are propitiatory only to the extent that they demonstrate for us how things are to be with us. His blood poured out so that we might finally understand, and see that his way is to be our way—that it comes down to our blood being poured out in serving our destiny, and living our life. We die metaphorically to our idea of something of value “out there,” and live—come fully alive—with the shocking realization that we are it! That we are the dream/treasure we seek! That we are the stone the builders (we) reject! That we are the Pearl of Great Price! That we are the Prize of Highest Value! And it takes dying—again and again—by changing our mind about what is important again and again—to know that it is so.

Putting it all on Jesus saves us from shock and consternation over the fact that anything like that should happen to us.  But, that is exactly what the cross is supposed to do: Wake us up to how it is with those who align themselves with the life that is their life to live, and swim against the current of cultural expectations of how life should be lived, to be and do what needs to be and to be done within the context and circumstances and relationships of our life here and now (In each situation as it arises).

Jesus’ life and death are a visual representation of what to expect, in order to prepare us for what follows. When we drink the cup Jesus drank, and are baptized with the baptism with which he was baptized, in walking the path he walked, and taking up the spiritual task of being true to ourselves and fulfilling our destiny within the context, circumstances, and relationships of our lives, the cross then takes the form of our handing over our idea of what our life should be, in order to live the life that is truly our life to live.

If you had your wits about you, you would recognize the implications of what I’m saying, and stop reading. You would turn to something that promises smooth things about sin and repentance, and offers you heaven for the low, low price of resisting temptation, and believing what you are told to believe. Here, you are going to hear that the spiritual task is the experience, exploration, and expression of yourself within the context, circumstances, and relationships of your life. The treasure is the unfolding of yourself—the spiritual life is about the creative revelation of you in the world. Don’t think that that sounds like there is nothing to it.

The minute you take up that task, you will find yourself swept up in the biblical themes. You will live out the Bible stories. The Garden of Eden will be about you, standing before the glittery, flashy, life that you have in mind, and turning your back on the different, deeper, needs of heart, and soul, and self. The Garden of Gethsemane will be about you reversing the trend and stepping back into the truth of who you are, and what is yours to do no matter what. All the stories in the Bible are about us in this struggle to be who we are, where we are, when we are, how we are, doing what is ours to do. They come to life in our life every day.

There is no bigger adventure than the adventure of our own life, and it waits for us to live it. And waits. And waits. And waits… For us to get to the end of our rope at last, and change our mind about what is important–and take up the work that is ours to do at last.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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