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.
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.