So that ‘reinventing yourself‘ thing? Yeah, that.
Leave it to me to over-analyze, but I’m trying to figure out how this all works. I committed to wait and pray, but is that all I’m supposed to be doing?
The reason I ask is this: people have lots of opinions about how this works. Some people say just to follow my heart, my dreams, my gut; other people say that I need to do what makes me happy. Still others say that God gave me a brain so I can figure things out, make decisions, and just choose.
I’m not so sure about all of that. If I really believe that God created me and created me with a specific purpose, wouldn’t it make sense that He would have an opinion about this?
I feel like I understand that kind of thinking in the context of the American Dream – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But somehow, I feel like we translated that into a Christianized version of the American Dream – the “Christian” American Dream: a great marriage, 2.5 kids, a dog, a house, 2 cars – oh, and by the way, we go to church on Sundays. And Bible studies, prayer meetings and we only listen to Christian music.
But isn’t it still all about ‘us,’ even if we’ve dressed it up in a Christian package?
I wonder if we sometimes use God as a means to an end to get the kind of life we want. We add Him into the mix, but still, isn’t it what WE want?
I’m not saying that I don’t think God wants us to be happy or blessed. But I’m trying to find, understanding the whole council of Scripture, where it says that we should be chasing our dreams. The kind of happy and blessed that I feel like we are all chasing after.
In fact, I don’t really see any example in the Bible of a person who decided ‘X’ was his dream and he just went for it, with the whole backing of the Godhead cheering him on. Now. I do see those whom God commissioned for certain purposes – and they had the whole backing of the Godhead. Am I missing something?
I’m sure there was lots of happiness and joy and fulfillment along with it – but as far as I can tell, that was a by-product; it wasn’t there motivation for pursuing a certain course of action. Most of the time – it was a matter of obedience, a response to a call, a commission from God to serve a purpose.
And let’s be honest – a lot of times, when they fulfilled these purposes, it wasn’t necessarily good for them. In an eternal sense – yes. But as far as the earthly fulfillment of dreams? I don’t know, I can’t really see Jeremiah’s or Moses’ or Paul’s or any of the apostles’ lives looking like the American Dream.
I don’t really see anyone in the Bible going after what they wanted and expecting God to come along for the ride.
But is that what we do today? We have dreams, plans, ideas…and we want God to stamp it with His approval while we chase after them. Now, I do think there is such a thing as a God-given dream, and I don’t think we should discredit every dream in our heart. But nowhere do I see in Scripture someone who had to work in their own efforts to make this dream come true. And even at times, God nixed their dreams (e.g. David wanting to build the temple).
I believe God gives us dreams, talents, and gifts to be used. And I think there is a degree in freedom and a whole lot of creativity in how we use them (The parable of the talents?). But in something as big as a life-changing decision, I really think God has something to say about it. If I believe He has a plan for my life, then I don’t necessarily have to chase it. All I really need to do is obey what He tells me to do and stay close to Him so I don’t miss opportunities (or take ones I shouldn’t).
I can say that, in the big decisions of my life, I never had to pull myself up by my bootstraps and ‘make’ it happen. Sure, I had to do some work, put in some effort, make a choice – but that was only in response to what He was putting on my heart to do. Or, I wasn’t sure and I just took a few steps to see what He did from there. Sometimes, it was nothing. Not what He had for me. Other times, doors opened. But there wasn’t a lot of ‘me’ involved.
As I look back, most of the major life-changing moments found me; I really did nothing to make them happen. I suppose I was where I was supposed to be – maybe that’s something, but I didn’t chase any dreams or follow my heart. I just followed God – and He brought the opportunity to me.
Some might criticize and say that’s too passive; it’s not taking enough initiative. Maybe, but I don’t really see it that way.
Why would I burn time and energy in something that is either A. bound to fail, and B. (and worse) not God’s will for me? I know other people don’t see God’s will as something so tight and exact. In every case, I don’t necessarily, either…but it brings me a great deal of comfort to know He has a plan and it’s really not my job to ‘find’ it or chase it or figure it out.
Because, really, as much as this flies in the face of our Americanism, it’s really not about me and my dreams. And truth be told – you know the first ‘Americans’? It wasn’t about their dreams either. In fact, this is what William Bradford had to say when he wrote the Mayflower Compact:
“Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia…”
Those first arrivals to America didn’t come for themselves. They came because they saw themselves as part of God’s plan, and as Bradford later related, even if they were only “but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”
That doesn’t really sound like the American Dream to me. Doesn’t even sound like the American Christian Dream.
We are willing to do what we need to do if it is a stepping stone to our dreams. But are we willing to be stepping stones in a great work of God, for His eternal purposes – whether or not it looks like the fulfillment of our earthly dreams?
This has a lot of repercussions if we live in a counter-cultural way like this. The ripple effect is huge – both here and now for us and for what’s to come in eternity. But this kind of reminds me of another favorite quote by my man CS Lewis:
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
That’s a little closer to the American Christian Dream – or what it should be.Aiming for heaven. Becoming a stepping stone. Letting go of chasing our dreams.
Might it be hard? Yes.
Include sacrifice? Yup.
Might it cost the release of chasing our earthly dreams? It might.
Worth it? Absolutely.