Contrary to its own name, the “American Dream” isn’t exclusive to Americans. This so-called dream is not limited to those who live within the borders of the United States. The only difference is that Americans have the path of least resistance in bringing that dream to realization and we’ve succeeded in holding this infamous “dream” captive from the rest of the world. However, I would argue that the American Dream is the same dream that all humans possess in their passionate souls.
So, what is this dream then?
Is it what we believe it to be here in America, the pursuit of wealth, prosperity, fame, comfort, success?
Popular opinion would say yes, but when you look at it on a deeper level it is so much more than those superficial things. God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) This means we have an inborn inquisitiveness for things beyond our current state. Eternity in our hearts has given us a deep seated desire, a compulsive drive, for that which is greater. On a cosmic level, it is a dream for divine acceptance. We long for this approval from the God of the universe. We long for the blessing of God. Every fiber of our being was designed to commune with the Holy God, so the pursuit of this dream is a holy pursuit. Whether you are poor, hungry, rich, or satisfied, your greatest desire is for perfect divine approval. The holy pursuit – the
American Universal Dream – is to be in communion with God.
C.S. Lewis claimed that every longing was actually a hidden longing for heaven:
There have been times in my life when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have desired anything else.
Lewis’ point is that we think we’re longing for something here right now in this world, but those desires are actually for something greater. Those desires are for something we lost when sin entered the world. Our desires are just a glimpse of what God truly designed from the start. Every thought, every dream, every experience, every pursuit in your life is just an inkling of what could have been if Adam and Eve hadn’t brought sin into the world. What we have are merely crumbs scattered in a broken world that point to the wholeness of a holy God. And over our lifetime we collect these crumbs with the hopes that we will see farther and farther into the mystery of our Creator. Every desire – whether for a home, a relationship, a satisfaction, or an experience – is actually rooted in a desire for God.
Our pursuit of this dream is so strong that, at times, we will do anything to obtain it. And when our selfishness is involved, the desire is derailed toward the power-struggling, money-hoarding, fame-building pursuits. Our dreams have been shattered by the decaying power of sin, thus the infamous “American Dream”. The holy pursuit set in our hearts by the Creator has been tainted by lies and corrupted by the control of idols.
The natural has become unnatural.
The normal has become abnormal.
The holy has become unholy.
This holy pursuit has become the pursuit for un-holy consumption. Our passion for approval has become a passionate pursuit for, well, anything. There is nothing that our un-holy pursuit sees as “off limits”. Blinded by sin we think wealth or success is the goal. We falsely believe the end result of our pursuit is something obtained here in our fallen world, but it’s just a crumb. We seek refuge from the things that cannot provide refuge. We seek rescue from the things that do not have the power to rescue. We seek out independence in the things that were not intended to give independence.
The crumbs have wrongly become the goal. But when communion with God is the goal and when we rightly approach this holy pursuit we don’t get crumbs, we get all of Him. We simply cannot satisfy the holy pursuit by pouring on new experiences, relationships, careers, or acheivements. The true object of our pursuit, our “American Dream”, is nothing less than an encounter with the Holy One.