The basic rule of a crisis is
that you don’t come out of it the same.
If you get through it,
you come out better or worse,
but never the same. – Pope Francis
I’ve hit a number of rock-bottoms in my life. Some deeper than others. Nothing as dramatic or tragic as some, certainly, but for me they were crises. In work, relationships, health, meaning and purpose. Moments of failure, betrayal, loss, death. Moments where I found myself knocked off-balance, dizzied, defeated, lost. And then, I was faced with decisions. Now what?
This is what crisis means, from the Greek krinein “to separate, decide, judge.” Crises provoke fresh judgments, moments of decision that are themselves to be drawn from the new way of seeing things the dissonant crisis event has wrought. The temptation, as Pope Francis says, is to just try to return to “normal,” to the way things were. To the “good old days” (that never were). To safety. And yet…
These pivotal moments in life are a wake up call.
Looking back, I can see that each crisis was a moment where, more or less, new dreams were born – dreams of my life; of who I am to myself and in my relationship to others, to the larger world, to God; of who I should become. This has been terribly frightening at times, as setting out into the unknown is against so much of the grain of the soul. And yet…
To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.
To dream of change requires some substantial reason for hope to be able to reach out into new possible futures. Only when there is substantiated hope within a dream are you then allowed to create a space larger than your present vision, i.e. to imagine not simply what is, but what could be were goodness to prevail. Such dreaming allows you to propose into existence a world that does not yet exist — a new creation. For me this is so much of the meaning of the oft-quoted Hebrews 11:1:
Faith is the substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
The word hypostasis in Greek means something that is foundational, real, grounded in reality and not in fantasy. Faith in the Creator and Restorer of all reality is the supreme hypostasis of hope, making faith the soul of all true creative and restorative dreaming. My dreams are to create, re-create or restore goodness that must be present for there to be flourishing — things that God is always inviting me to join him in.
I remember so clearly when Pope Francis said in 2020: “Let us not give up on great dreams. Let us not settle only for what is necessary. We are created to make God’s dreams come true in this world.”
God’s dreams. These are the substance of things hoped for. And what are the dreams of the Eternal? Well, God himself became man so that he might dream with our human imagination, and then open that imagination to our own. (is this not the meaning of prayer?) Jesus Christ is the dream of God for humanity. And Jesus not only proposes to us the vision of God’s dreaming (the Kingdom), but he is that dream realized, incarnate and fully elaborated.
This dream that Jesus set in motion on earth he awoke into in the Resurrection, unleashing its love story onto the face of the earth through us, his community of dreamers, the Church. This is now our mission.
So out of every dark crisis of my life, I hope to choose to receive afresh the light of Christ’s Paschal Dream into my imagination, and consent again and again and again to being remade in Its image. I long to be God’s master dreamer, and make his dream come true for the life of an increasingly hopeless world.
It is there, and there alone, that is to be found our life, our sweetness and our hope.
Sing to the Lord a new song!