When we were children they told us to dream big and chase the impossible. Then we reached a certain age, and they made us put our dreams and toys away and asked us to be practical. When we were young, we thought the grown-ups were the free ones—they didn’t have to take naps or do homework, they were free to stay out and up past our bedtime, free to make their own decisions, and able to have donuts for breakfast. We had no idea that with age comes new impositions, rules, and limits. Some are for our own well-being, but others (a nefarious brood) cloak themselves in practicality (like wolves in sheep’s wool), slowly wrench our dreams from us, and then devour them.
When we were kids, everyone encouraged and nourished our dreams. They bought us stethoscopes and fire trucks. We were taken to piano lessons and ballet classes. We were allowed to paint with our hands and have imaginary friends. We were free to be ridiculous, to have tea parties with stuffed animals, intentionally stomp in rain puddles, be afraid of the dark, and believe in things no one else could see (like the monsters lurking in the land beneath our bed).
Now, most of us color inside the lines of our life, if we’re even allowing ourselves to live with color—as so many of us are committed to seeing everything in black and white. We keep what we believe private, only sharing it with those we trust most. We treat our faith like an imaginary friend, something we were expected to outgrow, but didn’t. We’re afraid to tell certain people we believe in God—fearing they’ll think less of us, think us to be unintelligent or gullible (like a teenager who still believes in Santa Claus).
When did we stop dreaming with childlike abandon? Perhaps when we started paying rent, we let responsibility and practicality move in and choke our dreams to death. Or maybe we pruned our dreams down until they were small enough to sit inconspicuously on a shelf. We let them grow only this tall and this big, restricting them like bonsai trees. And what a shame that is. Dreams, like trees, aren’t meant to exist in miniature, they’re supposed to grow big—big enough to be a shelter, big enough to yield fruit, big enough to climb, big enough to live in.
And when did faith become immature—an intellectual liability relegated to the naive and uneducated? Haven’t enough intelligent minds professed their belief in God for the “cool kids” sitting at the atheists’ table to stop snickering and passing notes of judgment? If we can let children believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, can’t we also accept that some adults believe that everything we know as this world did not arise accidentally from the galactic equivalent of a messy sneeze?
I want to be an adult who isn’t ashamed of my faith in God, who doesn’t treat Him like Santa Claus, Aladdin’s genie, or an imaginary friend. I want to be an adult who dreams like a child, and then has the inner freedom and power to back those dreams up. I don’t want to have dreams that I’ve crammed into flowerpots like bonsai trees; I want a fully functioning, fully-grown (and yet still growing) dream forest. I want to be the grown-up that tells kids not just to dream big, but to never give up dreaming. And while I won’t have donuts for breakfast, it’s only because I prefer bagels.