There’s a whole lot of talk about dreaming and goal planning these days. I see and hear things on the daily like: “Go and live your dream!”, “Don’t quit your day dream!”, “Dream big!”, or “Anything is possible. It’s all about mindset!”
While these phrases are motivating and inspiring, they don’t really tell the whole story. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a dream. It’s easy to take a desire and make it an obsession. Dreaming is the easy part. There’s always more to a dream than the initial excitement, though. That part just isn’t as shiny and fun to talk about.
I want to clarify that being a dreamer is not a bad thing! Not at all. I believe God uses the dreamers! He needs people with big vision and excitement and passion for the kingdom.
I also want to debunk the negative dreamer mentality a little bit. I get a little fired up when I see people jump on the bandwagon of hating on a person (i.e. Rachel Hollis and a slew of other authors and influencers) or idea, just because it ruffles their feathers that not everyone is like them. Just as we are to question every message we hear, we should also question the attitudes of our heart. We should ask ourselves things like: Why does that bother me? Why do I feel attached to these feelings toward that person or idea? Do I think this just because so-and-so does? The truth is for everyone.
When we hold up the messages of this world against scripture, we can easily see what falls off and what sticks. Take the good and leave the rest. In scripture, Jesus’ character is on display over thousands of pages, describing how he loved people intentionally and practiced bringing out the best in them. Nowhere did he start a riot or turn people against someone in society who said something he didn’t particularly agree with. He loved them and kept teaching the truth. He was in the business of drawing lines in the sand, rather than throwing stones. Ya feel me?
Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent.
Back on track…I am a dreamer. It makes me feel excited and alive and important. I also know that when left unchecked, my dreams can quickly become about me and my glory. So, to all my fellow dreamers out there, I want to ask you three very important questions. Questions that I think will help you to decide whether or not your dreams are healthy, and what you should do about it!
*Please read them—even if you must do so with the occasional eye roll. Maybe it disagrees with your current mindset. And maybe that’s a good thing.
1.Have you ever asked God what He thinks of your dreams?
It’s easy to get excited about a dream. What’s not easy is to ask ourselves if our dreams align with our purpose. I’m not asking if God texted you and told you to go for this specific dream. (That’d be nice, right?.) I’m asking you if the dream you have in your heart brings good and love for anyone else? Does it bring glory to the One who created you? Are you so attached to it that you aren’t willing to surrender it?
I was at a ordination service recently for a pastor in our church. The speaker was talking about Isaiah and God’s call on His life. Isaiah experiences this crazy vision of the Lord (Isaiah 6), where God asks “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah immediately responds, “Here I am! Send me.”
What a crazy moment! To be in the presence of God and have Him ask that question…who will go for me? Isaiah seems to blurt out his pledge to volunteer without any hesitation—and it wasn’t a popular assignment by any means, if you know the story. I have to wonder if Isaiah regretted his willingness to go so boldly at any point after that. Like did he ever wish (like I surely would) that he had been given an itinerary for what God was calling Him to do? Did he ever want to just throw his hands up and say “Forget it! It’s too hard!”? Or did he question if the vision he saw was real?
Even if he did at some point, he stood on God’s promise to be with him at all times and kept on truckin’. That call to love and serve is the same for us today. God knows who we are. He knows what passions and dreams he created in us and He also knows the amazing ways He can use those things for the kingdom. So, we don’t have to be stingy with them. We can trust that His plans to use the very things He created in us are GOOD! So, go ahead and ask Him.
Surrender what you want to run after. Maybe your dream is completely honoring, and by surrendering you’ll be given the overwhelming peace that you need to carry out that dream well. Maybe when you surrender, you’ll be given an even greater vision than what you had originally dreamed up.
I can speak from experience that every time I have surrendered an idea or dream, He takes it far beyond what I could have ever imagined on my own. When I losen my grip, He sets free my limiting beliefs.
2. What are you going to do when your dream gets hard?
God promises to be ever present and faithful in our lives, but does that mean we get to be lazy? The “yes” is a vital beginning, but it’s just that—a beginning. Next comes the work. Just because we surrender, and have a God-honoring dream doesn’t mean that the dream won’t be hard.
I heard this on the radio the other day: “Work pays the invoice that every dream incurs.” I had to talk text it into the notes section of my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. (Anyone else’s notes section full of random quotes and thought fragments?) It’s so true though! If you have ever tried to work toward any goal or dream, then you know it’s equal parts thrilling and HARD. There are times you want to quit. There are times you question why you ever thought you were capable of something like this.
I have been there. In college, in marriage, in the teaching credential program, in my career as a teacher, especially as a parent, and on into my pursuit of becoming a published author. There were so many times I wanted to quit. It would have been easier in the moment.
So, what are you going to do when your dream gets hard and requires a lot from you? You have to have a game plan. Rest is always better than regret. It’s better to realize your need for rest and for pausing, than to get to a point of burn out and resistance.
We have to give ourselves the breaks we need. We also have to pause and go back to the fire that started the passion. Back to the why.
Maybe without realizing it, we’ve made things about us. Maybe we’re so busy seeking approval and congratulations, that the heart behind our dream has faded to the background and we are surviving off of approval scraps. (No wonder we feel burn out) We have to continually re-surrender. We have to embrace that our dream is not about US. And if we come to realize that it is—then it’s back to square one. A self-centered dream might be shiny and promoted in the world, but we know it doesn’t last. It’s not eternal.
That leads me to my third question….
3. Who gets the glory when your dream comes to fruition?
This one might be the most uncomfortable question of all. Who gets the glory for your dream?
At church we’re in a series on Daniel, so I’ve been reading a couple chapters ahead to get the most out of the teachings. In chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar is calling in all the wisest and magical people he knows in the kingdom to interpret a dream he had. No one can figure it out, and there are serious consequences because of that. He sets a decree to have all the wise men of Babylon killed.
Daniel hears about this and begs the king’s captain to set up a time for Daniel to meet with the king, suggesting he could interpret the dream. What struck me about this was that he stood on the faith that God was good and able to save, before God had ever given Him any proof that He would in fact save Him in this situation.
I want that kind of faith! Daniel immediately prayed with his friends for God to reveal the dream, and as you may know, God comes through. As he is accurately relaying the interpretation to the king, Daniel finishes with a few very telling comments:
“. . .but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” (Daniel 2:28)
“But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living…” (Daniel 2:30)
He makes known that this miraculous deed was not his own doing—that he was just a vessel for the job. Daniel is placed in high position in the kingdom after that, and many people come to know the Lord because of his willingness to: say yes even while he was scared, do the hard work required, trust God in the process, and then give all the glory rightfully to God.
That is the recipe for a dream well done.
May our hearts be like Daniel’s—always willing to put the glory where it belongs. Whether we’re starting our own business, teaching in a classroom, working in an office, serving in law enforcement, caring for patients, singing to an audience, or preaching to a church—may our dreams be a reflection of our faith. May they reveal the state of our heart, our trust and our reverence. May they do good for others and bring glory to the One who made it possible for us to dream.
May we seek the only approval that matters, and may that not be a cliche “settling”, but the ultimate goal.