What’s the dream?
The recurring question that endlessly appears at checkpoints throughout our formative years. We ask it of young children, we ask teenagers as they enter high school, and again as they graduate. For some, they may already know what it is that they want to do. One wants to be a doctor. Another wants to be a nurse. A third wants to be an astronaut. For the rest (the majority as far as I can tell), they have very little idea of what exactly they wish to do with their lives. If you had asked me this question my senior year of high school, I would have told you that I thought I wanted to be an educator or a counselor. Yet, in that moment, I had no idea what exactly it is that I wanted to do with my life… Nearly a decade later, I’ve somewhat settled into something that is exactly what I want to do. Something that I find to be immensely rewarding and constantly challenging.
I’ve always been passionate. Some may say fixated. As a child, my imagination was captivated by the very things that sparked my inspiration. For a time, I was fixated on Star Wars. Later on my attention turned to the Lord of the Rings. So on and so on. As an adult, I am now more readily able to identify the reasons behind why I would become so enthralled with these things. They had substance. A lore. A history. Reasons to be invested within the ongoings of their respective fictional worlds. They are an escape for the mind to explore complex issues through the guise of simple storytelling. In a word, I feel a connection to these worlds. For those who are interested, I am an INFP according to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. INFPs are known as “Mediators” that are characterized by a, “profound emotional response to music, art, nature, and the people around them. Idealistic and empathetic, Mediators long for deep, soulful relationships, and they feel called to help others.” I have found in more than one occasion, I deeply resonate with some of the attributes of this assessment. In other words, I am a dreamer.
I have big dreams. They’ve been called lofty or ambitious — and they ARE lofty and ambitious — but they do not have to remain in the realm of ethereal concept. They can become concrete. The biggest obstacle to dreams becoming reality is a fear of failure. People do not necessarily fear the dream itself, but they fear the discomforting change that the dream brings about. The unknown is scary because there is a lack of certainty. A lack of clarity. Dreams are not exclusively this abstract, conceptual thing. Dreams can be known as vision or calling. If you asked me ten years ago if what I was doing today was what I dreamed I would be doing, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Am I disappointed that I’m not where I thought I would be? Not at all. Have there been disappointments along the way? Absolutely. Have there been afflictions that have rend my life to pieces? Certainly. Yet none of those things overshadow the magnificence of God’s leading! God placed a calling on my life and a vision for something far greater than anything I could have imagined.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…Ephesians 2:10 ESV
that we should walk in them.
I had no desire to attend seminary when the opportunity was first presented to me. I loved God and had been actively walking in the faith for a few years, but the prospect of learning about God in that way was of no interest to me. At the time, I had no other prospects. I had been working a dead end job for a couple years, and was growing weary of the ever dreary environment I was in. I made coffee and loved crafting each drink for people, but it wasn’t something that I dreamed about doing. With little other options on the table I reluctantly began taking classes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. What was I going to do with it? No idea. Was it a way forward? Absolutely. In what I’m sure was an amusing irony to God, I begrudgingly stepped forward and never looked back. During that process, I learned to love God in a deeper more meaningful way. I fell in love with the Biblical context, historicity, interpretation, and the inerrancy of scripture. This thing that is often viewed a chore unravelled into this beautiful testament of God’s leading throughout creation. Knowing God on a much more personal and deeper level than ever before, and it was this education that would later be pivotal in trusting God during some of the most traumatic experiences in my life. An appreciation for Him unlike anything I could ever describe to you. Throughout those early semesters at seminary, I felt the Lord calling me into ministry. I had no idea how or why, but I knew that I was to be in ministry where I was. While this path was not one of my own desire or choosing, my reluctance turned into embrace as I went with the logical choice.
Time and time again, I’ve spoke about being equally logical as I am emotional. The whole head and heart not aligning kind of thing. I was doubtful, often skeptical and cynical, toward this path I was headed on. I did not believe that a college degree was necessary to life. It’s an expensive piece of paper that says you went to school for some duration of time, attained acceptable grades, and turned in assignments in, whether timely or not. What that piece of paper doesn’t say is whether or not you’ve actually learned. With that being said, the reality is that society says that that piece of paper is worth something. You earn higher pay once you’ve gotten a degree. You’re afforded more opportunity just because you graduated with something even if it’s not for the particular job that you’re applying for. All these nonsensical attributes that are tied to a $20,000 per semester piece of paper. My motivation for stepping into seminary were purely for the life advantages that silly piece of paper afforded. Thankfully, I’m grateful for the education I received, and it continues to come into play every single day in my life. Was it necessary? No. Was it practical? Yes and no. Would I do it again? Yes. Why? Because when God calls you to do something, you can deny it or you can step into it. Did I begrudgingly step into that calling? You bet I did! But somewhere in the process, I embraced that calling and championed that calling. I can attest that God is good and He will provide for you as you lean into that which He has called you to. Trust the process. Be faithful with that which God has given you.
Dreams. Vision. Calling. What do these things have to do with ‘the crazy ones?’ A whole lot, really. At more than one point in my life I have felt like a misfit. A square peg in a round hole. Am I? Probably. Is that okay? Absolutely! Some of the greatest innovators in life have been misfits. Even Jesus was a rebel to the cultural context He lived in. Was Jesus a rebel in attitude? Not at all. He lived according to the Law. He was the fulfillment of the Law. Am I equating myself with Jesus? Not one bit. Jesus’ life was radical because He lived according to God’s calling! People questioned Nehemiah’s calling. Joseph’s dreams were shared in arrogance and his brothers turned against him. Not to mention what those living around Noah as he built the ark must have been thinking! He certainly was one of those crazy doomsday-preppers. Throughout scripture we see examples of God calling individuals to do incredible things for the sake of His kingdom and we see the people around them misunderstanding their purpose. They doubted them, plotted against them, mocked them, and so on. How often have others tried to dissuade you from pursuing something? Sometimes that is necessary as not every dream we have is in our best interest. Yet, at other times, people want to discourage us from pursuing our dreams and callings because it challenges the status quo. The dream scares them.
Your dream may scare you too. The calling may be great and you have no idea where to begin. You may doubt it. You may try to run from it. You can certainly do that. God doesn’t need you. He just doesn’t. So the fact that He CHOOSES to call you to be a vessel of His message to the world ought to fill you with an unwavering, unshakable confidence! Confident in the Almighty God that created the universe will see you through every part of life because He is faithful! For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10 ESV). You were created with a purpose! A purpose that God intended you to walk in! This one verse encapsulates a plethora of Biblical encouragement and speaks to God as a Creator! One of the attributes of His character that we are made in the image of. You are God’s workmanship. Workmanship not only implies that effort was made, but that there was a dedicated effort and a degree of expectation that went into that which was created. As God’s created beings, that degree of expectation was precise. There are no mistakes. No errors in who He created you to be. You are just as He intended. What happens to our confidence when we embrace this understanding of God? Not only are we made in the likeness of His image, but our calling is suited for us according to His will. If you are a born again follower of Christ, our confidence is not drawn from ourselves. Our confidence is found in God. This principle carries over to our works. If what we do is coming from ourselves, from our flesh, it is faulty. The motivation is wrong. But when we work out of the overflow of our relationship with God, our work reflects the Creator. Therefore we ought not be afraid when God calls us out to carry forth His purpose. We may be confident in Him to see us through the process of sanctification.
There’s just this… one more thing… about calling that I ought to address. Out of everything we discussed about callings this thing may be the part that carries the most weight. Only you can deny your calling. People may try to talk you out of your calling. They may reject you on behalf of where God has called you. They may doubt your calling. Nothing they can say or do can take the mantle of God’s calling off of you. Only you can do that. Are we hopelessly lost when we deny God’s calling? No, but we fail to live and walk in the faithfulness that we as Christ-followers are called to. I do not share this lightly, because you can absolutely deny God’s calling. However, there is that common thread that ties every part of the Christian life together. The pursuit of faithfulness. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. He doesn’t ask us to not fail. He doesn’t place us in a place of fear. If He is calling you to do something He is going to provide you with what is necessary to complete the calling. He will equip you. He will humble you. He will surround you with people to walk alongside you as you pursue the calling. The path ahead may look daunting, but you will not be alone in the process. Thus the question is begged: Are you, right now, walking through life out of a place of fear? Or from a place of faith?
This question has some necessary side effects that reveal much about our walks with God. We’re either faithfully pursing Him despite the circumstances or we’re making decisions for ourselves out of our circumstances. Fear seizes us and causes us to seek the refuge of comfort. Faith steps forward boldly knowing that whatever may come is for the benefit of God’s kingdom and by extension best for ourselves. We must be very careful to align our perspective of the call because our call is not for ourselves. Nothing about our lives is truly about us. Our lives are for God! If we’re not careful we inadvertently read ourselves into scripture which in turn makes scripture about us and not whom scripture is truly about. God. While we read about these ‘heroes’ of scripture — David, Paul, Peter, Daniel — and their relationship with God, the main focus of scripture has far less to do with these foreground characters. Scripture has a lot more to do with how God is working in the background of these events to bring about His will. From the very beginning of scripture we begin to see God making a way where there was no way. God gave the Law to Israel knowing that they could not keep it. Why? Because we are all sinful, fallen creatures. Is that cruel? Absolutely not. The fact that we cannot keep the Law is what draws our attention up to God who is perfect in all of His ways. He is holy. He is perfect. We are not. We need Him because His grace abounds where we are found to be lacking. Knowing God’s character reveals the depths of faith and confidence we ought to have in Him! We ought not fear when trials and tribulations come our way. We ought not fear when He calls us to go to places that are not comfortable. Embracing the call from a place of confidence and willingness to be bent and molded into what is necessary for God to use you yields a fulfillment that can only come from God!
Well what’s the dream, Terren? You started off with this whole personality trait about being a dreamer, jumped into something about callings, and then the nature of God. What’s up? Good question! They all come together. Your unique personality was given to you by God who created you. The skills and talents that you have were bestowed upon you by God. Those dreams that you have originate with God. He is the dream-giver! Everything that we’ve been examining tonight originates with God! From Him all of life flows. He holds the universe together and is actively engaged with it. Here and now. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Nothing that occurs escapes His gaze. Every detail given the utmost attention. Does that not instill a sense of awe and wonder within you? Our comprehension can only give so much attention to the infinite amount of detail, but the God that created us not only knows the number of grains of sand that exist on Earth but also knows the depths of our souls. He knows you! He sees you! He cares for you! You are His created workmanship!
So what’s the dream, Terren! You’re killing us! Okay… Okay… I want to change the world. Ambitious, I know! ‘What do you mean?’, I hear you asking. Well, I want to put a dent in the universe. Okay?…
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.Steve Jobs, Apple Computers. 1997.
Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they
can change the world, are the ones who do.
Here’s the gist: What would the world look like if the Church not only furthered people’s relationship with God, but also furthered the development of the unique gifts and talents of God’s people? When we think of vocational ministry, we think of pastors. Preachers. Evangelists. People who speak for the Church body. But ministry is so much more than just those people! We have all been called to be ministers of the Gospel! Every. Single. Believer. We have each been given unique gifts and talents. Some make for excellent speakers. Others as dutiful teachers. Some may be incredible hosts. You and I may have similar skills. We may have total opposite abilities. But they come together for the benefit of the Church! One person’s skills are not more important than another. Together, we all reveal the strengths and beauty of the others all the while revealing the amazing institution of the Church according to God’s design! No singular person’s gifts outweigh the other. The fruit of the Holy Spirit exist in harmony with the others. They are different while equally important and serve a necessary function for the Church, it’s people, to thrive!
So what happens when we embrace the idea that God has created gifted, skilled, passionate people AND that He is going to call them to where He wants them to be? The Church, then, becomes the place that we can discover our skills, hone our gifts, be invested in as disciples, and then sent to wherever God calls us. We cannot horde people. We cannot use people for their gifts for our benefit. Everything that we do has to go back to this sense of purpose and mission! I am passionate about creatives! Creativity is not just artistry. Creativity is problem solving. Creativity is critical thinking. Creativity is adapting. Creativity is change. Creativity is pushing the status quo. Creativity is seeing things differently. Creativity is looking beyond the surface and addressing underlying issues that hinder us from being the most effective ministers. Can creativity be artistic? Absolutely! Is it exclusively artistic? Not at all. If it has not yet become clear to you, I did not dream of being in the position that I am today. In fact, I was quite reluctant to follow where God was leading because it was not what I thought it would be. Life has certainly not been what I thought it would be. However, I can testify to you that God’s leading is far, far better than anything that I would have or could have done by my own desires. There’s no telling where I would have ended up had God not removed opportunities from me or if I had chosen to outright reject the opportunities He placed before me. The journey has been crazy, at times, difficult, and so incredibly rewarding because God has been the one consistent thing throughout it all.
Here’s to the crazy ones.