I have come across people who fall in two different camps when it comes to dreams. They are on the opposite spectrum. The “The Overly-Optimistic Dreamer” and the “Curmudgeon” when taken to the extreme result in the same thing: the death of a dream.
The Overly-Optimistic Dreamer
Recently I was talking with an acquaintance of mine. It was a beautiful and relaxed Saturday morning. I ran into him and started small-talking. After a bit of catch-up he dropped an idea that had me frozen. You know that moment that someone says something that you absolutely and fundamentally disagree with, but you pause as you decide whether or not you want to get into an argument? The moment your beautiful and relaxed Saturday is crashed with an awkward disagreement. That was me. He said, “You know the beautiful thing about Jesus? It’s that you don’t have to do anything, you just have to be with him. That’s all that really matters. That’s really what he taught us. I mean, look at Mary and Martha…*insert monologue about not ‘striving’ and ‘just being’ for Jesus.”
But as I heard him talking, I knew he sounded right. It’s a deceptive philosophy that has unfortunately made it into christian pop culture. I hear it’s variance all around me in different forms. It’s the philosophy that God does it all and I sit back and wait for my ship to roll in. If I don’t like my current job, or my boss wasn’t nice to me then God promptly “calls me somewhere else.” This was the undertone of my entire conversation that day.
What my acquaintance here was forgetting was another story (actually another several stories) that Jesus told. He had undoubtedly read this story, but was conveniently not accessing it for this conversation. But it is a story that Jesus told. And we have to pay attention to it.
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of the talents. He describes a ruler who divvied out investment money to different servants. He gave more to some than to others. It wasn’t an even game. And all the servants invested what the ruler gave them. All of them took risk and stuck themselves out there so that they could multiply what was given to them.
All of them except one. One of them just buried and hid what was given to him. He kept it safe.
But the ruler didn’t want the investment safe. He wanted it multiplied. He wanted it risked for his kingdom. In fact his response was “You wicked and lazy servant!..take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.”
I know. Harsh. But Jesus is saying there is accountability with his investment into us. Work is required.
The curmudgeon takes his work very seriously. He best summarizes life with the old adage life is hard and then you die—and then go to heaven of course. He has life figured out. He has lost his natural curiosity. He has no what-if in his heart any more. When the subject of dreaming comes along he may say something like this his grumpy grandpa voice— “God is more interested in building character than bringing about your God-given dreams. God wants you to act with good behavior not fulfill your fluffy dreams.” He easily goes into lecturing mode on you about your attitude and trying his best to lower your expectations on life. “You little whipper snappers have no idea how hard the real world is. I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow without shoes to give up my dream. You need to be more mature and give up and be a miserable grownup like me!”
Now, obviously this is a bit over-the-top and sarcastic, but it’s an attitude that can be found in all areas of life. It can be found in young and old, men and women. But in the church it’s almost communicated beneath the surface. It’s a philosophy that goes unsaid explicitly many times, but it’s something you can feel. When the curmudgeon is in charge, the church begins to be a graveyard of dreams and a hardened support group for the ex-dreamer.
This is where we need to return to our true north of God’s character.
Now, of course God is interested in building our character, but only because he’s a good God trying to prepare you for the dream that he placed in your heart. The curmudgeon has it backwards. God wants us to learn the character and skills necessary because he is more interested in walking us into our dream and calling. Why? Because he is the one who gives the dream and is the one who created the dreamer. God is a good Father, who loves you, made you and is more committed to seeing you walk in the dream he gave you than you are.
If we believe God is a grumpy curmudgeon who doesn’t want us to enjoy anything in life so that we can “build character,” then we will never allow ourselves to enjoy the God-given gifts and potential of our lives. God isn’t only in the character-building business. He’s in the people building business. He’s in the dream-giving business. And he’s in the dream-fulfilling business.
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