The Dangers of Daydreams
Show a young woman sitting on a swing in a secret garden. She has a faraway look in her eyes. The slightest smile curls her lips. Her hair blows in the breeze as she gently glides front and back. Front and back. Now cue the scary theme music. But, don’t let her hear it. Daydreaming isn’t dangerous… how can she suspect anything bad is about to happen?
But it does. And we don’t talk about it – because it seems the most innocent of sins. Somehow even romantically sweet. But Scripture says that the thoughts of our hearts are really who we are… and over and over Jesus tells us that even our thoughts and hearts can be sinful. But daydreaming? Is it really as bad as that? Let’s talk about it.
And let me start by being transparent. I have really struggled with daydreaming. In high school through my mid-twenties, you could find me on a swing. In my head I was spending the million dollars I had won, I was marrying a pro-basketball player, I was writing speeches and raising my eight children. Or, and I was living in the outback in Australia as a mail-order-bride. Or planning lavish balls. And when I wasn’t daydreaming about all my adventures, I was cutting pictures out of a magazine and decorating houses with this crazy kit I made using floor plans and charts…
And I can’t believe I’m saying all this out loud. Although I am super embarrassed to tell you all this, I am reluctant to share so many (though not real) sweet memories. And I still have a treasured spot for those things and places and people I created in my head. Which is really, really sad. I’d like to think it was just that my over-imaginative imagination had to find an outlet – and that’s where an extremely creative- chubby-borderline introvert lands… but I don’t think it’s as innocent as that.
So, yes let’s have a candid talk about daydreams… whether they are the kinds that are just quick flashes in the mind’s eye or the ones that you take notes on and live for years.
Daydreaming provides a refuge. For some reason, life as we know it is not working. It’s boring. It’s hindering us. We aren’t being loved properly or cared for adequately. And we can hide in our daydreams. They provide a pick-me-up and a “safe” place. They are safe, because we are in control. In my daydreams, I am in control of resources, happenings, and even who I am. I am the center of my daydream – I am my own idol. I get to be loved, respected, powerful, influential, and at times, famous. I get to have comfort, wealth, prestige. I get what I want. My boring life becomes exciting. My stress fades away. And my daydream’s escape path provides everything my real life is missing.
So I daydream about winning a gift card worth $5,000 from Sam’s Club – I make a plan. What I would buy right away… what I would buy for friends and family… how I would keep a certain amount on the card to spend each month for the next year… I could get that deep freeze I really want and I could buy that fancy shampoo…
Control. Influence. Gluttony and Hording. People would have to love me because I was buying them things. And they would be so impressed with the new breakfast table. Extra spending money for the next year, how fun! I feel good!
But not for long – because this isn’t real. My Sam’s budget still has to fit in my grocery budget. The freezer is not in the garage and the breakfast table is still a borrowed card table. And all of that is really OK.
One of the biggest dangers of daydreams is that we set ourselves up for disappointment. We have unrealistic expectations and ungrateful hearts for what we do have. Real life is never going to be as good as my imaginary life.
So, when I walk by a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the grocery store – or see a picture on Facebook of what another woman has received from her husband – and form in my mind the quickest of pictures… one with my husband walking in the house with a bouquet for me… I am setting myself up for failure. I am setting our marriage up for failure. When he walks in without flowers, I will feelmyself unloved, unvalued and in reality – unworshiped. How dare he not worship the Idol of Me and lay flowers at my feet?
Married or unmarried, daydreams pose the same threats.
Remember Éponine’s song from Les Miserable? The one where she is pining after Marius? She says “He was never mine to lose.” What a perfect explanations of how daydreams leave us. When I think about all the boyfriends I lost who never knew I was alive… and although the love was imaginary, the hurt and disappointment was real. Which then left wounds that are chasing me even in my marriage.
Recently, I had planned a great matchmaking scheme between two friends. And when he started pursuing someone else – I found myself, again, heartbroken for a couple of days. I was sad and disappointed my for girl friend (although she knew nothing about the plan). And I really had to stop myself and say, “Am I trying to be god of these people’s lives?” My imagination doesn’t stop at wanting me to be god of my own life, I’d like to be god of everyone else’s as well.
Daydreams often lead to more sin. If I am grumpy with my guy friend and the woman he is courting, am I exhibiting God’s righteousness? What about when my daydreams lead to bitterness and unthankfulness? What if my husband has to live in my wrath for not bringing me flowers? What if every time I see the card table in the breakfast nook I grumble?
And then there’s the lust issue. All over the statistics for women using pornography and the growing realization of the rise of women masturbation are being made known. Why do you think Shades of Grey has sold off the charts? Sexual lust is no longer relegated to men. And there is a fierce number of women flirting with and then initiating affairs. And it all starts with a thought and a little bit of daydreaming.
So, let’s start talking about it, women… this hidden secret in our churches – one that is hurting our worship and our marriages… and our single women’s hearts. And maybe it doesn’t become physical. Maybe it doesn’t get out of our minds – but if it’s in our minds, it’s where God does not want it to be.
Do you remember the elevator commercial? I don’t even know what it was selling. A girl is in an elevator. The door opens and a guy gets in. When the elevator stops, he gets off as if nothing happened. Because nothing did happen. But in her mind, everything had. The kiss, the marriage, the wedding night, the pregnancy, the kids going to school, their daughter’s wedding, walking hand-in-hand as aging adults in a quaint park.
But, after she had quickly daydreamed all this, what do you think would have had happened if he had turned around and kissed her. My guess is she would have little self control – because in her mind they were already married.
And I think this happens too, with a lot of “Good Christian Girls”. There is an extremely slippery slope between fantasizing about going too far and then actually letting things go too far.
But, even if the relationship in real life stays platonic– would she go home and keep thinking about what it would have been like if it had become physically romantic? Where would her thoughts take her on a lonely, dark night?
According to Jesus, your sexual sin doesn’t just take place in “real life”… it takes place with a thought. Don’t think that just because Jesus called out men that we women are off the hook when it comes to lustful thoughts.
Our marriages are at stake. Our minds are at stake. Our hearts are at stake.
We have to guard our minds. We are told to guard our hearts – to take our thoughts captive – to think about whatever is true… and if we don’t, we are going to be in trouble… we are going to get hurt.
In daydreaming, even the kind we think of as innocent, are we living up to our call to be thankful? How does thankfulness work if I’m constantly wishing for what I don’t have? What would it be like to live in that house in the nicer neighborhood? To have that son who won the scholarship? That husband who ________? If I let my mind go there – will that help my heart see the goodness God has already lavished on me?
Because it does seem like the most innocent of issues in our lives, a call for repentance seems a little overboard. But maybe that is what is needed. That, and the clinging to and understanding of God’s goodness that will graciously forgive us.
So, what’s the plan? How are we going to do this? How are we going to turn away from what might not feel like anything more than just part of our personality?
1. Get accountable. I mean the old fashioned in-your-face kind of accountability where a trusted friend asks the hard questions. What are you daydreaming about? What are you wanting/idolizing in your daydreams? Are you living in repentance and grace?
2. Take your thoughts captive. When are you most tempted to day dream? Is it in the car? While you’re going to sleep? What could you listen to that would turn your mind towards Christ? Maybe a sermon would help you keep your head on straight. What would happen if collectively, all our daydreaming time was used for prayer? Or memorization of the Word? Good stuff, my sisters!
3. Do something else. At one point in my life, I had to just say, “No more sitting around daydreaming.” Instead of dreaming about all the things I could do – I just had to get up and do something. This is why I am not aloud (my rule) to be on Pinterest. I could just daydream my life away though that site. Recently, my friend told me she had heard the tip: don’t get on the internet without a plan. I like it. Be purposeful with your time.
3. Guard what’s going into your mind. Country music and Jane Austin are on my NO lists. So are any Christian romances. They don’t let my mind live in the goodness of my husband’s unique and wonderful gifts. They don’t encourage me to empty the dishwasher with a cheerful heart. And if you’re single – woahhh… they really don’t help you focus on what God is doing in your life today.
4. Be thankful. It might sound cheesy – but start making lists. When you’re day dreaming about getting a bigger and better house, budget, job, family or whatever…. Make a thankfulness list about what you do have.
5. Ask God for help. Ask that the Holy Spirit would sound of warning bells when you need them. Ask Him to remind you that He is your salvation - not a change in your circumstance. Ask Him to help you cling to His grace.
So, these five things aren’t going to cure our sinful nature. Fly-by-daydreams are still going to occur. Our hearts are still going to long for what doesn’t belong to us… and that’s why we have grace. God’s beautiful, perfect, fulfilling grace.
And I just have to hold on to the fact that in heaven we won't want to daydream any more.