The last five months, I’ve been learning the rhythms of life in a big city: street noise, concrete, buses and bustling traffic. In the middle of it all, thousands of individuals crossing paths with one another every moment, layer upon layer of stories being written every day. In my mind, the city is a blank canvas, every person a nuanced shade, tracing trails of color as they go about their day, creating something that is ever changing and was never there before. I never know who my trail is going to intersect with, what the colors will add up to be after we’ve all come and gone, and that’s how I’ve discovered beauty in the unexpected.
Yesterday, I was visiting the MALBA, Buenos Aires’ Latin American art museum, wandering around the galleries with my friend Miranda when a painting caught my eye. Just as quickly, so did the figure sitting in front of it, hunched over a notebook, filling its pages intently. Something about him made me look twice; he looked up, and we both started laughing. Out of all of the thousands of people who come in and out of the museum every day, what were the odds that my one and only porteño friend would be who I bump into? I quickly took a seat beside him and my friend Jero pulled me into a hug. We sat like that for a solid minute, and this is one of the reasons I adore Jero: A couple times, I tried to say “Cómo estás?” o “Qué tal?” but I found that the hug wasn’t over. It was a total surprise to bump into each other, I have a sneaking suspicion we had both had a long day, and we just needed to sit like that for a minute there.
Once Miranda had joined us on the floor and we’d began talking about the new Yoko Ono exhibit upstairs, Jero held up a little paper tag. Part of the exhibit was a cluster of three trees, and the idea was for individuals to pick a dream, jot it down, and hang it on the trees until the white covered the green. “Do either of you have a dream?” he asked. “I can’t think of one – I guess probably because I try to be living in the moment.”
The image of the trees is much like my image of the city: the echoes of the existence of a thousand individuals, adding up to become something that can stand alone. But still, I smiled at the irony in Jero’s statement – we all have dreams, we all have things we are striving towards, whether they’re nebulous and we’re not sure what we’re chasing, or we’ve already contained them with our words. Yet, at the same time, I think a dream – a goal, a wish, a hope, a desire – for many of us is to be present in every moment.
One of my dreams for Argentina was to become the person I’d always wanted to be. And I realized that I do this thing where I keep waiting to get to the next place or the next stage or the next season of life and I look ahead longingly and think, There – there is where I’ll really be the person I’m supposed to be. Instead of waking up in the morning and being her now, in the moment, when I really want it more than anything. And I miss so much of the moment, and I create so many wasted dreams.
Being and dreaming – they go hand in hand. But the trick to stop dreaming of who you could be or you should be, and instead, sculpt your dreams from who and whose you already are.
Have you ever tried to plan a monthly devotional for yourself, only to fail a few days in? I know I have. My dreams to walk closer with the Lord and dedicate my time in the Word crumble faster than my hands can put the pieces back together, and shame washes over me. I could be better. I should be better. Read more, journal more, pray more, do more. But it’s only when I stop seeing the Gospel as a goal to reach that I allow it to tell me who and whose I am, and that allows me to be the person God has already made me to be. And I like that person. She doesn’t have to schedule in her quiet time, because she wants to be with the Lord. She has wild, crazy, wonderful dreams for her life that flow out of that being, because she is grounded in a Being much greater than herself.
Every morning, I wake up a little more determined to be that girl – the one that He has already made me to be – and learning more about her when I least expect it. On the canvas of our busy lives, there are moments that God uses to get our attention – a slant of the sun, a song in the air – or a hug in the middle of an art gallery. As we sat there, I realized how quick I am to start a conversation, to jump in with both feet, to do and say the right thing – when sometimes, I simply need to just be. Future and present, dreaming and being – it’s a paradox worth exploring, because only God is capable of the contradictions.