I live in a city of broken dreams. Walk into virtually any coffee shop or restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, and you can find someone working hard there doing something that is wildly contrary to what they originally came to this city to do.
They didn’t set out to be a server; they didn’t plan on being a barista. In fact, they might have a demo CD in their trunk even as they are pushing food or coffee out of the kitchen. There are those who look at their present state as a stopgap, confident that at some point they will make the right contact or find the right opportunity and their music career will take off. Sometimes it happens that way; most of the time it does not. And so there are also those there who are struggling with the discrepancy between what they envisioned their future to be and the trajectory they are currently on.
And it feels to them like they are dying inside. With every cup of coffee and every plate of food, they are shriveling slowly, but methodically, into a shell of bitterness and resentment.
Dreams are wonderful things; they fill us with hope and optimism; they make us view every day with new possibilities and cause us to spring with joy at the prospect that “today might just be the day.” They are wonderful, that is, until they aren’t any more. It’s at that moment when you come face to face with the reality that maybe it’s actually not going to happen for you.
But I want to propose that there is a time when it’s not only necessary but actually appropriate to stop chasing your dream. Here’s the reason why:
Just like anything else in life, dreams can easily, quickly and subversively become idols, and when they do, you find that at some point along the line your dream has stopped being an aspiration and started being your master. Your self-worth is tied to an opportunity. Your joy is contingent upon your vocation. Your identity is linked to your advancement. When that happens, your dream is no longer the stuff of Disney movies; it’s a serious obstacle in your growth into who Jesus wants you to be.
Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow, and not just because it means letting go of something that we have invest so much time, energy, and emotion into. It’s also difficult because it means accepting, at a broad level, that our vision for our future is different than God’s vision for our future. But, as with most things that are difficult, this is also a great moment of opportunity.
When you make the choice to let go of your dream, Jesus is waiting there. He’s waiting, in the rubble of what you thought the future would hold, not to just give you a new future, but to remind you of who you are in the present. He’s faithful to reestablish your sense of self-worth and identity based on something way better than a dream. He’ll remind you, regardless of what else happens or doesn’t happen, that you are a child of God.
Jesus is like that – He fills up what has been emptied out. And in the moment when we finally give up, for our idols masquerading as dreams have been stripped away, to step in and whisper in our ear something that’s far more lasting and far more important: “You are a child of God.”
Read more in my book, Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.