Why Chasing Your Dreams Isn’t Enough

That thing about callings and ambitions and dreams that just won’t leave me alone as of late? Well, it’s been in full force this week.

On Monday night, I participated in an online book club that revolved around the ideas of dreams and callings and then on Tuesday night, I had the privilege of hearing Ally Vesterfelt speak at CharlotteONE (a twice-a-month gathering of 20&30-somethings in Charlotte) about calling and vocation and the God-given dreams and desires that make us uniquely us, which was followed by the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the subject on the way home with a sweet group of friends (we all grew up together and our paths have all just sort of collided again this year and I’m loving that!).

But through all the [mostly] good conversation, I couldn’t help but think over and over again that chasing dreams isn’t enough.

why chasing your dreams isn't enough

And I know, that sounds harsh.

But hear me out.

I believe we were created in the image of our Creator God to be creative, and part of expressing that creativity is to consider our desires, our gifts, our interests … how to express them and use them effectively. In other words, to dream.

But what seems to have become both the catch-phrase and the life-goal of my generation – “chasing your dreams” – has always sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

Until very recently, I had little understanding of why it rubbed me so wrong, and I still don’t know that this is a complete response, but it’s a solid beginning. And I think it’s important enough to share here in this space.

Because in the written word, I begin to see the truth for what it is, and in the light of the truth, the lies are exposed and can’t as easily seep in and take root. And when it comes to our dreams and callings, I am absolutely desperate for God-honoring, aligning-with-Biblical-standards truth.

Maybe you need to hear some truth in the midst of the lies on this subject, too.

Maybe you haven’t yet identified your dream or your calling and are feeling a little lost. How do you even begin to chase a dream or step into a calling you can’t name?

Or maybe you have identified a dream, but you don’t know if you can just go after something you want without knowing if it’s really of the Lord. Shouldn’t listening for His direction, for His voice, always come before just choosing to go our own way?

I suspected that I didn’t like the phrase “chasing your dreams” because it sounds a lot like pursuing a selfish endeavor. And in many contexts (though in all fairness, not all) that’s exactly what it is.

But that seemed like only a piece of it. There had to be something deeper.

So although I realize this may be a rather subtle distinction from plain and simple selfishness, the whole concept of chasing your dreams also seems to be based on the principle of “me centeredness”.

By that I mean chasing your dreams is not only very often all about you, it also places the entire burden of figuring out that dream on you.

But what if that’s not at all how we’re called to live as Christ followers? What if the burden of figuring out what this life is to be about isn’t on us? What if that’s already been answered?

What if this abundant life that is ours in Christ has nothing to do with figuring out our dream or our calling and everything to do with resting in His perfect knowledge and allowing Him to guide us to HIS dream (which isn’t really a dream at all … this Sovereign, Unchanging, God of the Universe makes plans and promises, not dreams)?

What if this life really does have one singular purpose?

To become more like Christ.

And while we share in that, we aren’t ultimately responsible for it.

Because no amount of trying, or dreaming, or figuring out what I’m supposed to do with my life will ever make me more like Christ.

But coming to Him … sitting at His feet, resting in Him, being with Him … and allowing Him to shape me and mold me and fill me with HIS vision will.

And in that coming to Him, we can be honest with our dreams for this life (for me right now, that dream is for a husband and children. a dream that seems near impossible to “chase” at all. and I’m sure I display my level of personal holiness when my prayers start to sound something like “and I want it now”…), but we also submit to Him.

Knowing that when we delight in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart. Knowing that when we pray according to His will, He hears us.

And then trusting that if what we’re asking for isn’t in alignment with His will, He’ll transform our hearts, our minds, our desires and conform us to His image. Because when we ultimately desire Him, He is faithful to align our hearts and our will (even our dreams) with His own.

And more than being known for anything that I can do or accomplish, that’s what I want in this life. I want to know Christ. I want to be like Him.

And doesn’t chasing your dreams somehow leave Him on the sidelines? Maybe coming back to Him for permission and approval? But isn’t He more than that?

But I can’t even suggest that we should chase Him instead of our dreams.

Because He’s not hiding or running from us. We don’t have to chase Him at all. We get to share in Him. We get to be with Him. We get to follow Him.

And that’s far better than chasing a dream.

When we’re abiding in Him, when we’re seeking Him first, when our eyes are fixed on Him alone, He brings the pieces of our life together in a way that accomplishes His purpose for His glory and for our good.

His purpose and His definition of good may look drastically different than any dream we could have in our human heart or mind. But it’s His.

And even if He never gives us a “greater” or more tangible dream to “chase” in this life, Christ is enough.

He will always be enough.

If my life is very simple and very small, if there is no greater call (like King David’s or the Apostle Paul’s), if it’s Jesus centered, it’s enough. Because He is enough.

Seeking Him every single day is enough. Living a quiet life according to His Word is enough.

And I can’t help but suspect that when we’re living for Him with obedient lives centered on doing His will and being faithful to His Word, where we are is where we’re supposed to be. And when He’s ready to move us on, He will.

When the purpose of life gets foggy and unclear, I can always come back to that.

Because I literally cannot get enough of Him. I can always move closer to Him, I can always be more desperate for Him. Because that’s what this life is about.

This striving to make life look different, this trying hard to make a change, this desperately wanting to go another direction and to chase our dreams … maybe that’s not of Him at all.

Maybe that’s human discontent.

And that doesn’t mean that I can’t live with my eyes wide open for the moment when He is ready to make a change in me. But I don’t have to fight so hard to make it happen.

Chasing your dreams isn’t enough. There’s no guarantee it will get us any closer to Christ.

But drawing nearer to Him and abiding in Him may just make all our dreams come true.

Because the lesser ones will fade away as insignificant and unimportant and the greater ones that glorify Him, that align with His heart and His will for us, will be accomplished in His time, in His way.

And we can trust that. Because He is good and faithful.

Chasing your dreams isn’t enough, but pursuing nearness with and following Jesus always is.

When Calling and Ambition Collide … And When They Don’t

“Old Testament figures like Moses and Jeremiah were reluctant leaders…They remind us that calling is a result of God’s grace, not a selfish desire for acclaim…
[And] Paul affirms those who aspire to leadership (1 Tim. 3:1). It is clear that when ambition is sparked by our communion with Christ,
it can be a righteous energy that drives our ministry.”
Skye Jethani (as found here)

when calling and ambtition collide

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about our callings and ambitions and dreams a lot again recently. And given that we are smack dab in the middle of our annual Missions Conference at church, I have found myself thinking specifically about a calling to missions again. Clearly this is not a new subject for consideration … I mean, I did just post about why I don’t live in Africa … and I did that entire 31 days series about how to better understand our {God-given} callings a couple of years ago … but sometimes it’s just a good topic to revisit and reconsider. To ensure that my thoughts are still aligning with the truth of God’s Word. And to ensure that I’m still where God wants me to be.

But as I once again consider this topic that I will likely never fully understand, I can’t help but also think that maybe it’s not either-or when it comes to how we’re called.

Maybe calling and ambition aren’t in as much conflict as we (or is it just me?) sometimes suspect.

Maybe some people just decide the Biblical imperative is to do this long-term, vocational missions thing and they go do it. And it’s ok.

Maybe other people receive a specific calling from God to a specific place or ministry. And it’s ok.

Maybe still other people choose to work in a secular industry, either out of compulsion or just plain desire. And it’s ok.

Maybe the whole concept of calling is less about doing it the “one right way” (if that even exists) all the time.

Because maybe it’s about just walking with Jesus, leaning into Him as far as we can. And then by his power and strength, leaning in some more, obeying what we already know He’s said in His Word (which for the record, is enough. if it wasn’t, He would have included more, but He didn’t, and I trust that. and for the theologically inclined, yes, I’m speaking of a closed canon here.), and making the best decision we can at the time we need to make it. And then trusting Him with the outcome and to continue leading in each moment of every day.

Maybe that means a month later we’re re-directed. Or maybe that means 10 years later we’re still there.

But maybe neither is wrong. Or even less right.

Maybe it was all part of God’s perfect plan for us after all.

I’m learning that there is a very real possibility that God doesn’t care so much about what we do. He cares more about who we are. He cares that we’re following Him. He cares that we’re walking with Him. He cares that we’re living by the Spirit and allowing His power to control and equip us, that we’re bearing fruit, that we’re loving well.

But within that context, there may just be a lot of freedom. And a lot more grace.

To choose.

To do something that aligns with our skills and our passions (because even those are a gift from Him).

To use our talents wisely.

To love and serve others by doing the next small thing right in front of us.

To look for where Jesus is working (all around us, all the time) and joining Him.

And maybe that means an incredibly short season and maybe that means an incredibly long one.

But maybe we (again, is it just me?) over-complicate this.

Don’t misunderstand me. Following Jesus certainly isn’t easy. Sometimes, it’s downright hard and painful. But maybe it’s not that complicated either.

Are there choices we’re faced with where there is clearly a “wrong”? Yes, sometimes, I think there are. If it’s not Biblical, if it’s not holy, if it’s not loving … then, yes. If it’s based solely on selfish desires and ambitions … then, yes.

But otherwise, while still making decisions prayerfully and cautiously, maybe it’s less about right or wrong and more about walking faithfully with Him.

And maybe I’m getting it all wrong.

Maybe I know even far less than I think I do (this is likely).

But here’s what I do know.

God isn’t playing games with my head and my heart. And He’s not playing hide-and-seek.

That’s not this God we serve.

His ways are not our ways and He is not in the business of manipulating. But He is in the business of leading.

And I want to follow Him. Whatever and wherever that means.

And the only way to know what that means … the only way to have a fighting chance of knowing this thing we sometimes label “calling” or having a holy ambition … is to know Him.

So maybe I don’t know what’s next, but I know that’s always my now.

Knowing Him. Following Him. Trusting Him.

Thinking & Writing

thinking & writing

I’ve been thinking and writing about several topics lately that are just not fully fleshed out, wrestled out, thought out, prayed out, felt out, and written out enough to post on the blog.

Although I’m completely on board with the idea that done is [often] better than perfect (trust me, I know how ineffective it can be to hold myself to a ridiculous standard of perfection), I also know that sometimes certain topics really are worth the extra time and consideration before publishing.

But I can at least give you an idea of a few topics I’ve been spending a little more time on:

1) Calling

A topic that has interested, fascinated, and baffled me for years. This fact is made obvious by my 31 Day Series I wrote on How to Better Understand our {God Given} Callings back in October 2011. My mind has been back there a lot lately. So I’m spending more time with it again.

2) Dreams / Goals

I know Ive mentioned this before. And I’m still thinking and writing about it. It’s just not organized.

3) Singleness

I’m hesitant to write on this and I’m not even a hundred percent sure why. I’m just not sure what value I have to offer the conversation, but I am single. Have been my whole life. And although I hope marriage is a part of my someday future, I genuinely want to live my single years well. With a Christ-like mindset, a servant heart, and eyes fixed on Him.

So while I continue to process and write about these topics (plus a few more) behind the scenes, I want to hear from you. Really.

What have you been thinking about? Writing about? Reading about? Or even listening to?

It doesn’t have to be serious. I have big plans to start reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain this weekend, so if you’ve been reading any good novels lately, let me know those, too!

Just Keep Going

just keep going

Sometimes I read stories of and/or watch those a few years younger than me, those just out of college, who seem to know exactly what they want next, are sure of their calling in this life, or are passionate about one particular cause. And instead of taking time to consider how to best execute their dreams, or getting caught up in a cost-benefit analysis for their proposed plans, or worrying about how finances will fall into place, they just get to work and do something or go somewhere.

They seem so young, and sometimes their actions seem a bit impulsive and carefree, but they’re already doing what they love and living out their passions and dreams.

When I consider their path versus my own, it’s easy for me to fall into the ugly comparison trap of thinking I’ve somehow missed something, or in the very least that I’m behind.

That because I didn’t have the focus or the dream 5 years ago, I didn’t get it right.

That because I don’t have the life now that I envisioned then, something didn’t go right.

That because I still don’t have a clear vision of what this life should be about, I’m still not getting it right.

But if my one passion and drive is living for the Lord and glorifying Him through loving Him and loving His people, so what?

As I spent the entire month of October over a year ago fleshing out through a 31 Days series, this life isn’t about knowing exactly what comes next.

Yes, God calls some people to very specific tasks that last a lifetime.

But for the rest of us … we just keep risking. trusting. following. loving. going.

By faith. Eyes fixed on the perfect Author of this story. One step at a time.

Of course I’m not going to have it all figured out yet … or likely ever this side of heaven.

This life isn’t over and that’s not my job.

My job?

It’s to just keep going.

I will likely make hundreds of more wrong turns and try hundreds of more things … some of which may succeed, others of which will almost be guaranteed to fail.

But this God, this Jesus, whose way is perfect stays the same and never fails.

He’s got this world from beginning to end.

This day … this life … is His.

He’s got this.

So just keep going.

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

I Want to Live for Christ

I only have one life … only so many days, only so many hours.

It’s so easy to get caught up in possibilities and dreams, to be overwhelmed by somedays, what ifs, and if onlys.

I can’t do it all.

But so what if I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up?

I’m living now … each day, each moment … and I want it to count. Eternally.

I desperately long to hear those words from the Master:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

I want to live this life trusting Him, serving Him, sharing Him.

For His glory.

Not mine.

Because it’s still not about me. It never has been. It never will be.

I want to stop feeling guilty for the choices that I make … I want to own those choices knowing that I have made them according to the only standard for my life that matters at all. His standard.

Considering the urgings of Paul, I want to

“…live a life worthy of the calling I have received.” (Ephesians 4:1)

I want to live a life worthy of the gospel.

I want to press on toward the goal.

I want to run in such a way to obtain the prize.

If life right now mostly looks like working, worshiping alongside a solid ministry team, studying Scripture, loving on two-year-olds in the nursery, writing, investing in rich friendships, and hanging out in coffee shops than I want to do those things … my things … His things … well. Fully invested in His kingdom work.

I want to live for Christ.

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)