The Danger Of Dreaming


There is a danger, you know, that comes with dreaming.

I’ve been thinking about this lately after flipping through a few books I read last year. I like to go back sometimes and see what I highlighted. As I flipped through The Great Gatsby, I found two paragraphs that I think are the most haunting in the whole book:

"'If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,' said Gatsby. 'You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’ 
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.

Gatsby never considered that perhaps the hoping for Daisy was part of the magic. That once the hoping and dreaming was gone, the real work of building a life with the object of his dreams wouldn’t match up with the fantasy he had built in his head. Later in the book (spoiler and trigger warning), he actually ends it all because he can’t have his dream just the way he wanted it.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with dreaming, or with working for things to be better. The danger comes though, when we place all our hope in dreams. We idealize, we fantasize. We build up all the beautiful parts and forget that in this fallen world, there is always difficulty that comes with dreams fulfilled. Or we despair when our dreams go unfulfilled, as our hopes are never realized.

Nick Carraway too, is chasing dreams throughout the book. The line most quoted from Gatsby is:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

But people tend to forget the Nick says this earlier in the book:

“I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

I think in Nick Carraway we have another character who is looking for something, wanting a fresh start with every changing season, chasing something new and exciting that he never quite finds. His disillusionment grows throughout the book. Finally there is nothing left worthy of wonder, no enchantment that isn’t eventually spoiled. In the end he decides he isn’t made for East Coast life and returns home.

You see, the world of Gatsby is in the end a godless thing, and the book ultimately drives home the futility of a godless world. Without God, there is nothing to hope for, just earthly dreams which can never truly be grasped. Without something greater, something “commensurate to [our] capacity for wonder” we are lost, doomed to ever be striving as our dreams drift farther away. 


As believers, we have a better hope than that.  Better than any earthly, temporal dream.  Hebrews explains where our hope lies:

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever...”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭6:17-20‬ ‭

Our hope is in the strong consolation we have through God’s promises - that this world is not the end, everything it holds is not the only chance at wonder. No matter how godless the world may seem, our awesome God has not withdrawn His hand. Even now He is upholding the world “by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), and working out everything for the purposes of His will. 

We don’t need to place our hopes in a fresh season, or a dream fulfilled. We shouldn’t in fact, because those things are ultimately empty. No, our only true hope lies with an immutable, unchangeable God. A God who became our Savior when He stepped down to this fickle, fallen world, and offered up Himself as a payment for our sins, as our perfect, unblemished Savior.

Rooting all our dreams in this world will ever be a disillusioning, hopeless endeavor.  And sometimes even we as believers can place our hopes in the wrong things - people, movements, elections, a new house, a new state, new friends, vacations, babies, a significant other - but all those things, even the ones that are blessings, can never truly fulfill us. When we hope in only the blessings and forget the One from whose hand they come, we’re left drifting. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This we have as an anchor for the soul. Sure and steadfast. The promises of God that our salvation is assured, that our citizenship is in Heaven, that our Savior is there building a place for those who believe, who repent and call on His name.



There are a lot of dreams that have gone unfulfilled in 2020. A lot of disillusionment, disappointment, pain. But there is a great Hope. This is just a reminder to my sisters in Christ to not put our hopes in the wrong place - to not dream of a better tomorrow without resting in, and pointing others, to the true Hope for the world.
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Emily Powell said...

The Great Gatsby is just the most heartbreaking book in so many ways. He strives his whole life to be something else and he is so close just to be betrayed. When I read it in 7th grade I totally missed most of it. I watched the movie as an adult (new one) and re read the book and just bawled...and I'm not a crier...at all. So much striving for nothing.

Michelle said...

My family is in an extremely difficult season of life, and today is one of the most discouraging days I’ve had in awhile. You don’t know how much I needed this reminder. I haven’t been able to get out of my own head today.

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