“The world is in a great dream and but few are awake in it.”
The above is a quote from William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1729). Describing our world as being in a “great dream” is very fitting; there is a lack of permanence, even an unreality, in all that we see. Our bodies will grow old and die and decay. Things we build may outlast us, but not for long. Even great things like our nation and our economy are temporal—if life continues long enough on this earth they will fall and be forgotten; if Christ returns only that which abides in Him will remain. Either way everything on this earth that we see, experience, and contribute to will someday be no more.
And yet most people hold on to these things and treat them like ultimate ends. How many people show more concern for the government of this country, a government that will ultimately fall and be no more, than they do for God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom that will forever endure? How many people are more concerned about what their friends think of them than what God thinks of them? How many people pay more attention to the state of their car than the state of their soul? They are dreaming. And like everyone in a dream, they treat their dream as if it is the ultimate reality.
It is particularly interesting and often painful to witness people recognizing that there must be something more than this dream, but not having the knowledge or hope of anything greater, and so living in despair. This is a constant theme in our art. For example, consider the following from one of Beck’s songs: “I just hold on to nothing / To see how long nothing lasts.” To see that everything on this earth is ultimately nothing, yet to hold on to it nonetheless out of despair that there is nothing more—that is depressing stuff. This is a person to whom the Gospel would be very good news!
Or consider the following from Conor Oberst: “I’m so bored with my life, but I’m still afraid to die.” This is an honest sentence if I ever heard one, and I believe it to be the true, though unspoken, opinion of most people. Without Christ there is no purpose, no comfort—there is ultimately nothing. To quote my favorite nursery rhyme, “Life is but a dream.”
I say all this to highlight two very important purposes of Christian education.
First, Christian schools can partner with parents to teach children that there is an abiding reality beyond this world. Many treat this life as if it is all there is, but they are in a great dream; there is a reality beyond what we now see and experience, and this reality is everlasting and eternal. When everything we watch and listen to treats this world as the final reality, it is easy to be influenced by this thinking. Christian schools seek (or at the very least ought to seek) to swim against that current and help children grow the muscle they will need to swim upstream.
Second, as Christ said in Luke 10, “The harvest is plentiful.” People are desperate. Many see the futility of this life, of this world, yet without the Gospel message they will continue “to hold on to nothing.” I hope that my students will graduate with both the ability and the desire to share the Gospel with the countless lost out there who need it, but who live in such blindness that they don’t even know what they need.