The year was 1963. A huge crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his now famous speech, “I have a Dream.” It was an important moment in the history of civil rights and led to improved legislation.

Most of us don’t deliver speeches about our dreams. In fact, some have a hard time remembering what they have actually dreamed when they awaken in the morning hours. For others, dreams may become the beacon of guidance for our future planning.

Psychiatrists and psychologists have often tried to help patients understand the meaning of their dreams. One such explanation is that dreams reflect the unconscious mind where our fantasies, fears and deep longings lie.

Some leaders appeal to our “best” vision of our inner beings or unrealized purposes in our lives. Each of us needs to determine what our dreams are and what they may mean for productive living.

The Bible speaks of God’s guidance coming through dreams and visions. Whether in deep sleep or full consciousness, the Old Testament heroes and some New Testament personalities experienced God’s “call” through a dream or a vision. In fact, very often the cloud of the material was removed so that the vision of the eternal could be seen. Elisha’s servant was fearful when the enemy armies gathered around the prophet’s home, but as the prophet prayed, the servant saw a heavenly host protecting them.

Our dreams provide at least three functions in our lives:

(1) Our relaxed state of sleep often facilitates focus. That focus can open up our fears or allow us to move past obstacles toward clearer visions of reality. Hypnosis or therapy can assist in this process of focusing. Unacknowledged fears almost always hinder our behavior. Admitting and examining those blocks to productive behavior releases us to freer options.

(2) A dream or vision can draw the more positive aspects of our personality to the fore. One of my favorite quotes is, “I would rather be pulled by my dreams than pushed by my problems.”

(3) Self-disclosure fosters self-realization. A wise therapist once asked, “How can I know what I’m thinking until I see what I’ve said?” Perhaps that’s the foundation of therapy – to allow another person to show us what we’ve thought or said.

Finally, for the believer, the function of prayer guides us in discovering and determining the direction of our dreams. The Old Testament speaks of “covenants” between God and the faithful. Even when a person had sinned or failed, God brought forgiveness and renewed the promise of His loving guidance.

How do we determine our dreams? By submission to the inner guidance of God, praying for wisdom, by examining the negative influences surrounding us and discovering freedom from them, and seeking the balance of our strengths and weaknesses in the most productive pursuits of our lives.

That dream — or those dreams — will be as refreshing as a cooling spring of water in a desert. May God grant each of us the satisfaction of knowing our dreams and the reward of fulfillment.

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Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as President of the International Family Foundation and lives in Canton. His most recent book, LIVING WITHOUT LIMITS, was published in late 2019 and is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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