I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, dreams.
Since I’ve already confessed that I’m a feeler, I’ll tell you that a lot of feelings and thoughts swirl around them too: Hope. Confusion. Anxiety. Zeal. Guilt.
They’ve come center stage lately as I wait…and wait some more. It’s to see, really, if my dreams match up with God’s as future plans unspool. If my idea of green pastures and still waters are really His—or just the “good thing” that is not His best thing. As Donald Whitney writes, One way to clarify your spirituality is to clarify your ambition.
And it’s here where I’ve found myself lately, diligently prying my fingers one by one—and again as they spring back like a stubborn screen door—clutching my dreams. Dreams that even completely make sense with Scripture, and yet, I’m realizing must never be the driver of my life, but always the driven.
God’s got to propel my dreams, and not the other way around.
It’s so easy for my dreams, in all their stealth and sleek beauty, to harden into the stone of an idol in me. They collect my hopes and my peace in their unmoving, hardening grip: a disordered chaos. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things, rather than the Creator, who is forever praised.
The gift becomes the god. That which serves becomes that which demands to be served. And I fall victim to the misconception that my dreams = my happiness.
Part of me knows a portion of the “live your dreams” mantra sweeping from Disney’s Cinderella to the Constitution (inalienable rights…the pursuit of happiness…) proves itself profoundly true. Because my God is the Dream Weaver of all truly noble dreams, of godly ambition—of all those desires busting my seams to take on flesh. As I have quoted before from Dave Harvey,
Humility is not a fabric softener on our aspirations—smoothing, softening, and tempering our dreams to the point we’re too modest to reach for anything.
…This ability to perceive, prize, and pursue is part of our essential humanness, and it’s the essence of ambition….
God has incited your interest because God wants to speak to you. (Rescuing Ambition)
Our ambition for His honor—and that vision, without which people perish (Proverbs 29:18)—expands the kingdom of God, our compassion, our reach. It makes us do a double-take on that foster child that needs a home. Plunges us into a rainforest concealing an unreached people group. Clenches our fist to fight poverty and injustice, or for those who can’t speak for themselves.
And still, sometimes I feel like we’ve been sold a bill of goods in America. “Dreams” can often be a lofty, filmy pink nickname for What I Really, Really Want (Um. No tribute to the Spice Girls intended).
Of course, ambition has gotten a bit of a bad name—and perhaps rightly so. I’m commanded to pursue nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit (Philippians 2:3). My desires, when first birthed, are often deeply good—sex, money, food, success, health, prosperity.
It’s only when they reach “demand” status that they begin to corrode the soul. That God isn’t the source of my joy; my dreams are.
Perhaps I’ve never sensed more strongly the truth of Paul’s lament—“when I want to do good, evil is right there with me”—than when my desires have crystallized in my mind; when what I want, even for God’s Kingdom, weighs heavy in my palm like Gollum’s ring. Only grace, Paul David Tripp writes, can make us love God’s kingdom more than our own.
Lately I’ve thought about Jesus, maybe planing some wood quietly over a dirt floor, curls of wood falling over His hands. I wonder if He ever had a dream. Maybe, Would it be possible for me to just make some good furniture? Find a lovely wife, settle down. Have some crazy kids running around. Maybe avoid capital punishment.
Yet–this guy was the most joyful, the most truly happy, that ever lived. Even when he was bearing our sorrows. His God-given dream, His true joy, propelled him to die to all the rest.
And at the risk of sounding a little harsh on the deep goodness of dreams—a verse flitted around my mind.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
So perhaps what I long for are well-ordered dreams; dreams that are my passionate fire rather than my master. My gas pedal, but not my shackles. (Too many mixed metaphors? Probably.)
I long for dreams that are infinitely bigger than mine.
Tell us. What has God used your dreams to show you?
If you liked this post, you might like God as a Good Luck Charm (Or, Where was God When I Totally Failed?)