You don’t have to wait for signing day, 2025 to find out where Amelia intends to go to college to play sports. Our 9-year-old daughter is determined to be a Nebraska Husker quarterback. And if that doesn’t pan out, she plans to be Miss America. And you won’t hear her cheering for female Presidential candidates because she intends on being the first.
It’s tempting for Aaron and I to smile and shake our heads at her audacious dreams, and sometimes we do. They remind me of my own childhood dreams to travel the world singing as a Christian recording artist.
It wasn’t until I actually went to Nashville for college and met all of the other kids with dreams like mine who had already done a ton of leg work in building connections, refining their style and promoting themselves that I realized I wasn’t cut out for the game.
But my parents let me try. They knew I would never feel at rest until I did. And though I gave up on the dream to be a recording artist long ago, I’ve continued to search for my greater purpose. And one of the most difficult questions I’ve had to wrestle with is this: How can I know when my dreams are fairy tales and when they are truly worth working toward?
You Won’t Know Until…
Last night Aaron and I caught the last half of The Matrix on TV. I was struck anew by the fact that plain old Mr. Anderson is given a new name and told he is “the one” who will save humans from the machines who have taken over the world, but he isn’t sure if he should believe it. It seems as though he is equally hopeful and terrified that it is true. The oracle tells him he isn’t “the one,” taking pressure off of him so he can realize it for himself. Through the last half of the movie he makes incremental decisions that put him in a position to call out his courage, little by little. And with each small victory, he grows in confidence of his abilities and conviction of his purpose until he owns his new name, Neo. The fascinating part to me is that he isn’t fully confident that he is “the one” until the end of the third movie when he really does defeat the machines and save the human race.
Neo’s story isn’t a new tale, it is a tried and true one. One of my favorite lines attributed to God is when God speaks to Moses in the burning bush and tells him he is “the one” who will lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom. Moses goes back and forth with God, asking how in the world anyone, including Moses, would believe it. Finally God says, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12, NIV)
And I hear this: “Look Moses. I’m telling you that I’m with you. But you will not feel completely confident that it was me until you see me set the captives free. Only when the job is done will you be able to look back and know for sure.”
Hindsight is 20/20
I know it’s hard to discern when dreams are fairy tales and when they are worth working toward. My own vision for the contribution I make to the world is constantly changing and being shaped as I take steps toward it. But I am experiencing the growth in confidence that Neo does as I make my own incremental decisions to take risks that call out my courage and calling.
How do you know if your dream is a fairy tale or worth pursuing? Friend, it is as true for you as it is for the rest of us:
- Whether you dream of becoming an inspiring teacher, running for School Board or being the United States Secretary of Education
- Whether you dream of speaking at a national conference, becoming a pastor or leading a small group
- Whether you dream of being the first female President of the United States, Miss America or a Husker quarterback
You won’t know if your dream is a fairy tale or if it is your calling until you take incremental steps of faith and see where they end up leading you.
Then someday you will look back and know, that you didn’t know, until you tried.
Suggested Reading: The Art Of Work, by Jeff Goins