What if instead of starting with New Year’s resolutions, we began with New Year’s daydreaming?
January is a time when I eagerly peruse the newly arrived seed catalogues for ideas for springtime plantings. Where I live in the Northeast, the ground is cold and it’s still a long ways off to seed planting in spring. Under the huddle of a warm blanket, my imaginary garden is filled with bright dahlias, plentiful peonies, dramatic roses, and giant sunflowers. My productive tomato plants have never seen pest or blight, and the herb garden is replete with all I need for my kitchen. Of course, when it comes time to bring my fantasies in line with reality, I know that I will mostly choose plants that can survive in my small and shady garden, which is also frequented by my “frenemy,” the groundhog. For now, though, it’s time to peruse the paragraphs about the Candy Mountain sunflower and Showtime dahlia, and believe in a perfect summer garden.
Ignatian spirituality encourages us to allow our imaginations a playful kind of freedom. Jesus said that one must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). I think he must have had in mind the spontaneous and trustful nature of children, who are happy to daydream. For many of us, it is easy to write off our dreams as “impractical.” We dismiss a major shift in work or relationship, or taking up some newly awakened desire or interest that may not seem sensible. Yet it is only in our imaginations that we can allow ourselves the freedom to hear God’s call. Without the spaciousness of a wandering imagination, we will not grow, but growth is central to the human spirit. The imagination is as essential for human growth as are sunlight and water for a plant, if it is to flower or bear fruit.
Recently, I have been thinking more about writing about new areas of interest, beyond my specialty as a scholar of ancient Greek philosophy: perhaps the ecological crisis, peacemaking and reconciliation, or prison reform. Any would require moving out of the comfort of what I already know into new and uncertain territory. I have recently been drawn to exploring jazz, a genre about which I know little but which I find enlivening and awakening. Perhaps this will be a year to plant some new varieties of seeds along with some old standbys.
Of course, as we move our dreams into action, we must also look to the practical needs of our families and communities. Eventually we must discern what the gritty details might look like. But first, we can dream and play, giving God the space to enter into our lives and to refresh and replenish us. Jesus tells us that with God, “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
What are your dreams for the new year?
Thank you for this Marina. The garden is certainly one place where you will find God. It is crisp, frosty but bright here but there among the leaf litter on the borders of the garden is the tiny wren searching for food. Or what about the hellebore bought last year as a present which came into bloom on cue on Christmas Day. God is there – He must be as these things could not happen otherwise.
I admire your courage in seeking new avenues for your talents but please do not forget us. We need your thoughts and inspirations.
Souada, you and your husband are in my prayers too.
Thank you, Peter. I truly feel blessed through reading this post.
Prayers for you and your husband, Souda. May God be near to you and grant you much peace. Thank you, also, Peter for your thoughtful encouragement. I love the image of the hellebore (Christmas rose) as a sign of God’s presence: we receive flowers even in wintry times.
Thank you, dear Marina, for this hope-filled message. I shed tears it as I read it. We found out my husband has cancer last September. Since then, I felt dreaming without him is futile. But your reflection on Jesus’s words renewed me to keep the child in me awake and to seek ways to dream together about our passions in spite of the new limitations. Thank you!
You and your husband will be in my prayers.
Thank you, Reenie. It is amazing and comforting to know you are praying for us. I appreciate it.