Dreams are a curious thing. They can encompass everything from what we want in our personal lives to the dreams that we have for other people. Dreams can motivate us, get us out of bed in the morning, push us towards the life we want to see for ourselves or help mold us into who we want to become. But, dreams can also be devastating, disappointing and even lead us away from the life God wants for us. How we understand and shape those dreams in our lives is instrumental to living a fulfilling life that brings us into perfect relationality with God and with others.
We have grown up in a society that has told us we can be anything, we can do anything and we can make something of ourselves with enough hard work and creativity. Coffee-fueled dreaming makes up a good portion of college life. “What do I want to do; who do I want to be?” I think there are two implications with dreams that we have to be mindful of when we try to understand them.
First, I have heard many people say, “God gave me the dream to (insert ideas of non-profits, relationships, jobs, etc. here).” I, by no means, want to dissuade anyone from their God-given dream; however, often the dream we think God gave us is the dream that we actually gave ourselves. Even worse, we come up with a dream ourselves and say, “God gave me this dream!”
I remember the first time I heard John Mark and Sarah McMillan’s song, “King of My Heart.” It got to the point in the song where John begins singing to God, “You’re never going to let me down.” Without hesitation, I began to think of all of the dreams I have had in my life that did not come to pass. I thought of where I used to want to be in life, compared to where I am now. I remember first thinking that, or so I thought, there had been plenty of times God let me down.
Very often, I confused my desires and my dreams with what I believed God had for me.
It was only a moment later that I realized that all the times that I thought God let me down were all the times that the dream I had for my life was not the dream that God had for me. When our dreams do not line up with what God has for us, we will always be let down. The dreams we give ourselves may even come to pass; but, if those dreams are not what God has for us, they will never be fulfilling.
Second, we can be so afraid of following a dream not given by God, or so concerned that we find that one magical dream that we think God has for us, that we stop dreaming altogether. Yet, this fear of not following the right dream or finding that one specific dream (if there is even such a thing, which I doubt) is a fear that comes from failing to be in a community centered on God. People were created to be in community. In Genesis 2, we read that out of everything God created and called good, there was one thing He deemed as not good. “God said, ‘It’s not good for the man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.’”
We, as people, were not created to be alone.
Being a part of a community is being a part of a group that can help us discern between the dreams that God gives and the dreams that we create for ourselves. When we remove ourselves from our community, we remove ourselves from the very people God gave us to help determine where our dreams came from. Community not only helps us understand where our dreams have come from, but community is vital in helping us complete and fulfill our God-given dreams. Without community, we are cut off from what God has given us to dream big dreams that we could never accomplish on our own.
We are all called to dream, just like we are all called to be in community. Dream big, dream often and prayerfully discern with your community which dreams are God-given and which dreams are self-produced.