It usually starts with the desire for inspiration. A band I follow posts a picture from a show or a photo shoot. I look at the photo. If it’s one that I like, I research the photographer a bit. Who do they work for? Who are they? What does some of their other work look like? During this entire research escapade, the dominating thought in the back of my mind is not, I am ashamed to say, only to appreciate the quality of someone else’s art. Oh no, I am constantly evaluating their talent in comparison to my own because they are living my dream. Sometimes, after I have looked at their photography of other bands, I think, “I could do that,” or even worse, “I could have done better than that.” Proud much? Well…yeah. However, which is most often the case, I decide the work is far superior than mine, I feel defeated, jealous, and baffled as to how that person got that position. Is it who they know? Did they take classes? Do they have some personality trait that God left out when he formed me? Then why, oh God, why do I want this so badly that my soul writhes in agony?
Ok, maybe that was a little overdramatic. But, that’s what self-reflection can do to you, can it not? This morning in the shower, I was thinking about God’s will verses my will. It occurred to me that there is a lot of pride involved with placing my will, my wants, my dreams equal with God’s plan for the entire universe. Even that sentence sounds ridiculous. Perhaps more accurately…It was revealed to me that contrary to all the advice self-help quacks will squawk at you, it doesn’t matter how much you set your mind to achieving your dream. At the end of all things, you will just run yourself ragged trying to stubbornly get to where God does not want you to go. It’s like constantly running yourself into a plexiglass wall. You can keep doing it, but you’re going to get beat up in the process.
I am reminded of the story in Numbers 22. Balaam is riding his donkey when all of a sudden she won’t go. God put an angel in the path that would have killed Balaam had his donkey kept walking. The donkey could see the angel, but Balaam couldn’t so he beat the poor animal. Finally God granted the donkey the ability to speak so she could explain the situation to a misguided prophet. Ouch! Balaam realized his mistake and repented. It may not happen quite so miraculously, but God puts obstacles in our way, ones that we don’t always recognize, to stop us from attaining a dream or a goal. I have been struggling with this for a long time. Why would God give me a dream if he didn’t want me to chase after it?
The answer is simple. Well, it’s simple to write, not so simple to hear, even more difficult to correct. God will put obstacles in the way of your dreams if they become your god. I think we can all agree that dreams are good things that come from God. However, they can easily become idols. A few weeks ago I heard this in a sermon, “Idols are good things that become god things and become bad things to us.” May be why God would keep you from your dream. I fell in love with my dream and I use God like a genie. I make wishes and try to fool God and myself. Here’s the genie prayer, “Ok God, I’m giving you this thing I’m in love with. I really want it. But I want you to have it. I want to trust you with it. Here you go.” Sounds good right? Except in the back of my mind and the depths of my heart I was like a kid with my fingers crossed behind my back thinking, “I hope you give that back. I don’t really want you to have it. I think you’re going to break it. I’m really not sure I can trust you.” First, how many theological issues can you find? What does that reveal about the lies I tell myself? Let’s all be honest, God is omnipotent. Omnipotent means all knowing. Who do I think I am, tricking God? Seriously? If I let go of my dreams, it can’t be a trick. It has to be true, honest surrender.
Sounds good. How do you do that? A lot of people would say, “Love God more than your dreams.” But that’s more like a nice quip. You can’t make yourself love someone. Go ahead. Try. It’s empty and you end up going through the motions, pretending. Surrender is about a true, honest relationship. To get there, you have to have the right priorities. From that same sermon, “Give weight to God and all other things will float up.” The relentless pursuit of dreams without God will leave us bitter, tired, beaten down, and broken. By giving God the weight he deserves the unimportant distractions will float away. Then God’s Spirit can be a guide in what to do with your idols/dreams (you fill in the blank). Otherwise you’re running around, trying to balance everything, or beating yourself up on an invisible plexiglass wall. If that Idol floats away, you are still left with the One Thing that has weight, gives true joy, and has everlasting meaning. Find joy and astonishment that the Creator of a universe, larger than any man-made vehicle can travel, is willing to include any one of us, a speck in that universe. Joy springs from every fiber of my being that I am included in the story at all! When I tend to think I can write it better, or get confused about my part, I know I’m not as close to God as I need to be.
What is a dream God has put in you? Has it become an idol?