As I look back over my day, there are two things that stand out to me. The first is a question that was posed to me regarding the church where I work. The question was (and this is a wicked paraphrase, as we say in New England), "How would you rate your daily approach to ministry, 10 being you are trying to change the world and 1 being you are just trying to maintain and survive? Always the introspective thinker, I have rolled the question over in my head since it was asked. The second thing that happened was that I received some encouraging words about something that I recently wrote from someone who I respect, even encouraging me to pursue publication of the work.
The question and the comment are related in my mind because they both point towards dreams. For the most part, I approach life from a cautious and cynical perspective. Some of my experiences have tainted me enough to cause me to have knee-jerk reactions. The ironic thing about this is that at the very core of who I am, I am a hopeless romantic dreamer. These two elements of who I am are fairly conflicting, which probably seems obvious. Which one wins out? I guess it depends on the day.
It depends on the day...that was the answer to the question about whether I approach every day trying to change the world. There are some days when I feel that I can scale tall buildings in a single leap, and other days when I feel like I'll be lucky if I make it to my car. That's probably fairly overdramatic, but I think you get the point. There are some days that dreams seem to be stifled and extinguished by responsibilities and "to do" lists. More accurately, the potentially great things in life can easily be overshadowed by all of the good things that seem more necessary to accomplish.
Each and every one of us can probably list the things that we need to accomplish on a daily basis that are required in order for us to maintain families and jobs. I wonder if there are ways that we can jettison some of the extraneous activities in order to accomplish great things. I am reminded of Jesus' words to his disciples when he first called them, "Come and follow me." According to the Scripture narrative, there was no hesitation on the part of these early followers, they just dropped what they were doing, even at the expense of ticking off their dad by abandoning the family business, and followed Jesus. I wonder how willing we would be to do that if Jesus came to our places of employment.
Would we be willing to drop what we were doing or would we pull out our book of excuses and pick the best one? Would we abandon the great things that God has for us in order to accomplish the good things that someone else has given us? Are we currently abandoning the great for something that's only good?
A wise musician friend of mine always used to tell me, "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Those are words that I think about often, but is it really possible to pursue your dreams and still survive without being such a hopeless romantic? I think so.
Yes, we are always going to have to do certain things in our lives, but what do we do with the rest of our time? Are we making good use of it? People make time for the things that they value and that they see as important. There are certain life stages where we may not have as many opportunities for extra activities, but we can always make some amount of sacrifice. When we come face-to-face with our dreams, we need to ask ourselves the question, "What I am willing to sacrifice to make these dreams come true?" Sometimes, the sacrifices are too great. We should never sacrifice our convictions or our families for our dreams, but if they are really attainable dreams, I wonder if those kind of sacrifices would even be necessary.
I had a conversation with a young man from my church in the past few weeks who is aspiring to do what I do in the future as his career. He has a few more years in high school, but he is looking ahead to the future and wondered to me if it was too early to start thinking about this. Here is a kid who is a phenomenal musician, intelligent, and to top it all off, he was born with no arms. In some ways, I think that I should be asking him the questions and taking some cues from him. Chances are, nobody is going to tell him what he is or isn't capable of doing, and because of that, the sky is the limit in his pursuit of his dreams. Here's a guy who knows who God has created him to be, has embraced that, and is ready to pursue his calling. So why are the rest of us so afraid?
In some ways, I think it's the sense of responsibility that we all inevitably face that saps our dreams and creativity. It's almost as if we think that we can't be responsible dreamers. Sure, it seems like a paradox, but I think it's possible. In the move "Up in the Air," there was a powerful scene when George Clooney's character was firing someone while at the same time trying to encourage the guy he was firing to look to the future. Ryan (Clooney's character) knew this employee's background and the fact that he had abandoned a passion that he had for this job. He asked the employee how much he had sold his dreams for, implying that he sold out his dreams for the job that he was currently being fired from. I wonder how many of us have sold our dreams for a price.
Have you abandoned your dreams or are you still pursuing them? In the immortal words of John Lennon, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Don't let your dreams die, and if you sell them out, make sure that the price that you're being paid for them is really fair compensation for a life that is lived with "good" things rather than "great" things.