The statistics were enough to secure me a standing ovation and a much coveted place on the Lord’s honours board. The electronic scoreboard reflected the magnanimity of the victory as England clinched the deciding Test and, with it, the Ashes by an innings and 50 runs. My team mates and I were near overwhelmed, barely holding back the tears of joy, as the ecstatic crowd enthusiastically hailed an unforgettably glorious and epoch-making occasion. Everyone who loved me was there to witness my success. My father looked particularly proud, and why not! He taught me everything I knew about off-spin. Just as I was thinking that life couldn’t possibly get any better than this, I woke up!
How frustrating! All my best games of cricket I have played whilst horizontal, i.e., in my dreams!
The devastating reality of this was sinking in as I wiped the sleep from my eyes and slurped an early morning cuppa. Then it suddenly occurred to me – here lies a quite profound spiritual lesson. For many Christians, all their ‘best’ spiritual experiences, all their most notable faith achievements, have been secured whilst horizontal, i.e., in their dreams!
Sad though it is, often our Christian lives do not reflect in reality, the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that lie within. We ‘imagine’ what it would be like to live the victorious Christian life, walking close to God and enjoying the favour of men, but what we hope for (perhaps even long for) and what we actually realise are entirely two very different things.
Some Christians live totally deluded lives. They convince themselves that they live, from day to day, at the ‘cutting-edge’ of spiritual effectiveness when, in point of fact, they more resemble the Pharisees. Self-deception is a terrible thing, often suffered by those whose spiritual judgements are impaired by the affairs of this dark world. It is little wonder, therefore, that the Apostle Paul concluded his discourse on holy and righteous living in Ephesians chapter 5 with the exhortation: “Wake up, O sleeper…” (verse 14).
Every morning, as I enter the M62 motorway at Junction 7 (Rainhill Stoops), I am met with the sight of THE Dream – a 20 meter high statue that sits on the site of the old Sutton Manor Colliery in St. Helens. Dubbed St. Helens’ answer to the Angel of the North, THE Dream was commissioned by ex-miners and St Helens Council as part of Channel 4’s Big Art Project – an ambitious public art initiative supported by Arts Council England, the national development agency for the arts, and The Art Fund charity. It was created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa who, at the unveiling, said: “I learnt a lot through talking with the miners. All they spoke about was darkness and I wanted something to reflect the light. Light becomes a dream when you’re working in darkness.”
I wonder, is this why our spiritual successes remain mere dreams? Hence, Paul’s words to the Christians in Ephesus: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8)