Our Dreams are Too Small!

It seems like every TV show targeted for children propagates the all important message to “follow your dreams.” It’s become an American virtue. Our children grow up with the message that they can be anything they want to be. Usually, their favorite singers and shows are painting the message that their greatest aspiration should be fame. Even the so-called reality shows feed the cultural hunger for celebrity and attention. The worst cultural sin to commit these days would be to squelch a young person’s dream. I’m not saying that ambitious personal aspirations are a bad thing. But I do want to spend this article considering the proper value of dreaming and the actual business of discerning its fruit. Countless four-year old girls dream of someday becoming a princess (thanks to Disney). We buy them fancy dress-up clothes knowing it is mainly harmless fun and that one day they will grow out of it. For Halloween, we let our kids dress as astronauts and professional athletes even though their odds of actually becoming one are 13,200,000 to 1 and 22,000 to 1, respectively. When is it okay to pursue a highly unlikely ambition? Well, there are some obvious indicators: special talent, work ethic, and recognition. But even if all of these line up to a career that fulfills their biggest aspirations, what is the perceived value in that achievement? I join with the others lamenting that back in the day, one chose their career path according to the gifts and opportunities they were given to best serve their community. Now the message seems to be, “how can you best serve yourself?” Career paths are made according to highest salary, status, or acclamation. We are looking for personal fulfillment in our jobs in a very self-centered fashion. And, of course, we are finding ourselves in despair when encountered by rejection of our dreams, or dissatisfaction in their attainment. I have found Dave Harvey’s book, Rescuing Ambition, to be very helpful in this area. He points out that our ambitions should not be so much about what we achieve, but rather about who we are.
God has an agenda: it’s to change us into the image of his Son. And one way he brings about this change is through our dreams and ambitions. God works in us through that which we aspire. Sometimes God brings our dreams to life; sometimes he doesn’t. But how we respond to his work becomes an important intersection for change in our lives. As we cooperate with him, we discover that it’s not ultimately about nailing the promotion, or raising well-behaved kids, or winning the Daytona 500—as good as all those things may be. It’s about something much bigger: how I become like Christ while I pursue those dreams (70).
God gifts us all with particular talents and opportunities to serve in his civil kingdom. As we serve our neighbor we have multiple vocations: husbands, mothers, brothers, aunts, students, teachers, entertainers, and even a few princesses. Some pay well, and many are pro bono. But they all come with their crosses to bear in this sinful world. Even in a wonderful marriage, it’s certainly not always wine and roses. The best of careers come with high responsibilities and burdens. Many times, we will be pursuing a path that is laden with God’s blessing, only to find him closing that door for another direction. Some vocations seem to find us when we are not even looking in that direction. Oftentimes, God seems to put the pause button on many of our aspirations. So how do we direct and encourage our children (and ourselves for that matter) when it comes to all their wildest dreams? We can help them pursue their greatest enjoyment in every vocation, and that is Christ himself:
As we cooperate with God’s work, what delights us is no longer indulged ambition, or even ambitions for God, but God himself. So let me ask you: What lies at the end of your ambition? Are your goals built around that job you’ve got to have, the weight you’ve got to lose, that position in church with your name on it? Or are your dreams increasingly built around God and his life-shaping activity in you (p.79)?