When you saw the title of this post, you were probably thinking this might be some sort of super encouraging post about not being stuck where you are and going someplace new. You probably thought it would be about leaving the mundane and going after something exciting. You probably thought I was going to tell you to leave everything behind and chase after whatever that wanderlust is that you’re probably always dreaming about. Well, I’m sorry to tell you that’s not exactly what this is.
I’d say it’s been about 15-20 years since I was introduced to a very easy-to-read book by Bruce Wilkinson. I’m not talking about the coffee table book, “The Prayer of Jabez” that every good Christian owned a copy of in the 90s-00s. I’m talking about an actual book with actual chapters, “The Dream Giver.” Like so many other books of this era, it grew in such popularity that now there are versions for teens, kids, parents, grandparents, cats, llamas… Ok, maybe not the animals.
It’s a fictional story about a regular guy. He has a dream. He is desperate to pursue that dream, and he does. It shares fictional storytelling about the challenges he faces from some unlikely places as he’s pursuing his dream. And it talks about how he achieves the eventuality of his dream through various steps along the way.
I would love to give you a synopsis of the book in its entirety, but I really want you to buy it and read it yourself. It had that much of a profound impact on me. I feel that strongly about it. So, jump over to Amazon and search it. The Dream Giver By Bruce Wilkinson! As I type those words in my head giving emphasis to each one as I type, I realize you can’t hear my voice saying the words out loud. Oh well. Buy it. Read it. It will hopefully encourage you and open your eyes to some amazing truths that you were not even seeing in your life like it did for me.
Since there’s so much good in all the chapters leading up to what I’m about to spoil for the book, hopefully what I’m about to tell you and share my experience of won’t ruin it for you. It’s also fairly predictable so… The guy in the story eventually gets to his dream. The curveball is that he was so busy pursuing it, he didn’t realize it. Please, hear me out: still go get the book. There is so much encouragement in the journey of the story.
I could just leave the post there. I could end it with “don’t miss out on your dreams by being so focused on achievement that you don’t realize you’re already living the dream.” But wait, there’s more! I have to tell you a story about me and give you something to relate to. So, here goes.
I got saved at 17. Shortly after, I was going on a youth group trip as a sponsor. I remember it very clearly. Dawson McAllister conference in Dell City, Oklahoma. We were in an arena with thousands of other students and adults. It was mesmerizing the energy that was just emanating from the room, the stage, and from me. It was on that trip that I had this overwhelming sense of calling. I want to tell you two very different versions of that calling. The one I thought I understood at that moment, and the one that was the reality of that calling that it took many years for me to finally understand.
During the conference and for a number of years after, I knew my calling was this: I was going to be a part of a ministry that would impact thousands for the Gospel of Christ. I would be a huge key player in that ministry and I would be the “it” guy making it all happen. As a young, naïve, and dare I admit it, arrogant teenager, I assumed that meant I’d be the worship leader. I could sing after all and I didn’t want to have to study to be the speaker. There’s probably a lot of people that can relate to this dream. At least in some sense. It’s fairly common as I have come to learn.
I spent many years pursuing this version of the dream I had in my youth. I did a lot of dumb things trying to achieve it. I won’t lie, I had a lot of fun too. I learned how to play piano (poorly, but I could improvise!). I learned all the newest worship songs. I even tried writing some music. Definitely found out that wasn’t my talent. Not one bit. I led worship for student weekends, student camps, kids camps. I led worship for young adult services and even had a number of seasons of being on stage during “big church” to lead. I tried out for multiple recording companies when I could. But, mostly, it always seemed to get derailed. I eventually assumed it was because I wasn’t good enough. And boy did that hurt.
Yes, once again, I was being ignorant. But, it took me a while to realize it. And ultimately, it took me reading that book! It wasn’t that something was wrong with me, it was that I misunderstood the calling and was pursuing something that wasn’t really my calling. I thought I understood my calling to mean I needed to be famous or some personality, someone of major public spotlight influence. But that’s not REALLY what my calling was. Remember, it was to be part of a ministry that would impact thousands for the Gospel of Christ. It wasn’t to be some famous worship leader. My excitement about the conference and the energy of the room was most certainly misdirected and cause me to be blind to what my calling really was.
Then I read that book. Then I realized, I had achieved my calling, my dream. I was living it. Literally. I was part of a ministry that was impacting thousands for the Gospel of Christ every week. And it was happening around the world because of the ministry I was in. I wasn’t even the worship leader. I was the media guy. I was responsible for the team of people that were broadcasting the Gospel message to the thousands on our campus every week. We were responsible for a weekly TV program, three of them in fact, that broadcast to a metro area with more than 2,000,000 people. We were responsible for putting the Gospel online live every week and to an online archive that could potentially reach anywhere in the world thanks to the world wide web. That’s what www means on the front of websites if you didn’t know :).
What a wake-up call! And I had been doing it for a while before I realized I had made it to where I felt God calling me so many years ago. I got distracted by my own misunderstanding. I mean, I wasn’t trying to be self-serving in my ambitions. I really was wanting to do it for Christ. But, that’s not what He had in mind for me. No, He wanted me to do something entirely different. And, He had led me there without me even realizing it. And even after I had arrived, I didn’t realize it. I’m sure thankful for a God that is faithful to me when I’m confused and lost as a goose.
Remember when I said it seemed like everything I tried kept getting derailed? Well, the process of those derailments are what led me to areas that I could learn and be trained to do what I’m doing now. God was there. He was the one derailing. It wasn’t that something was wrong with me. I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. To be honest, maybe I was doing exactly what He wanted me to do along the way. If I hadn’t been chasing after what I was, maybe those opportunities to be derailed wouldn’t have happened and given me the experiences and skills necessary to achieve that dream. How’s that for a brain bender? I wouldn’t recommend you spend a bunch of time thinking about that one. That’s like the discussion between Calvinism vs Armenian in the arguments about free will. HA!
So, what’s your dream? What’s your calling? Are you accidentally already there and you don’t know it? Are you missing it? Please don’t. Are you sure your calling and your dream are what you think they are? Did you do what I did and confuse the truth of the calling with some version of it that wasn’t even remotely close? Even well meaning people can do it. I did. I’m sure thankful that I God helped me see what He had done in my life. It’s helped me follow Him more closely and understand a little easier when He does give me glimpses of what He’s wanting from me. Or at least made me a little more open minded to what that nudging, what the glimpse might actually mean.