What do you talk about when the end is near?

What do you talk about when the end is near? The space station had just exploded. The surviving astronauts were jettisoned into space, hurtling towards a certain death. They have only minutes left to talk with one another. A variety of conversations happen in their headsets. Some men argue. Some lash out at life. But one man remembers and regrets.

This is the scenario from Ray Bradbury’s short story, Kaleidoscope. What’s the point of the story? Facing certain death, one of the men describes a realization that was like “a feeling of cold water rushing through his head and body. . . . There were differences between memories and dreams. He had only dreams of things he had wanted to do, while Lespere had memories of things done and accomplished.” That line has been embedded in my memory: there’s a difference between memories and dreams.

Memories are recollections of events that actually happened. We can taste, touch, smell, and hear the content of memories. Dreams are something else. They’re simply desires of things I wanted to do but never got around to. I have a friend who often comments, “I want to ….” and he fills in the blank. I interrupted him one day and said, “Don’t say “I want to” if you have no intention of ever doing it. Why don’t you say “I will . . .” A decision of the will turns a dream into a memory. Living life well means building memories not just dreams.

Now there’s nothing wrong with dreaming. I believe God has created us as “imagining” beings, people who create dreams of what could be. However, too often we’re content with only dreams and not memories. What makes the difference? Listening, honesty, and risk-taking are little disciplines that help me turn dreams into memories.

Listening turns my soul to God’s thoughts. Dreams are often birthed by the Holy Spirit through my reflection on His word. As meditate on the Scriptures, He sometimes nudges me to ask, “What if . . . ?” This nudge is tempered by the honesty that time provides. I let my dreams slowly simmer in the back of my mind, allowing time to take an honest look. This honest look means that sometimes I abandon my dreams. Here’s an example.

A dream I’ve cherished over the years was to teach at a college level. When the opportunity emerged to teach a course at a Christian college, I took it. After two years, I concluded that I was ill-suited for the task and disliked the entire experience. Honesty led me to kill that dream.

While time may temper a dream, risk moves it to a reality. It’s not until I choose to practically act that dreams become memories. Action plunges me into the public eye. People will notice if the dream is succeeding or failing. I risk my reputation but this is how memories are built. Without risk-taking there are no memories. The simple disciplines of listening, honesty, and risk-taking have produced memories and not just dreams in my life. A life well-lived with God is one of memories and not only dreams.

As you start the new year, are you planning to have a year of dreams or memories? Are you listening to that still small voice of the Lord? Are you willing to be honest with your ideas? What risks are you willing to take?

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