This week the well-known refrain, “I have a dream!” echoed from the lips of a man who changed the world. We are all quite familiar with the speech. Powerful words, and stirring delivery by a great orator. But the heart of what Martin Luther King declared on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial one late summer’s day nearly fifty years ago was that he had a dream.
Dreams are something that sits at the core of us and is our every motivation, the very fiber of us. His dream was to see all men treated equally. Every person judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin in contrast to much of the America he lived his life in.
Dreams somehow also sit at an unattainable distance from us. Like two powerful magnets, the dream that is distant pulls on the dream at our core, beckoning us to realize that which we were made to be. Our dream. It’s as though it is at once unattainable, and unavoidable.
Lately—even before the annual rememberance of Dr. King and his famous speeches—I’ve been thinking about my dream. Mainly I’ve been asking myself, “What is my dream?”
And I really don’t know.
I’ve been through a rough patch the past maybe eighteen months, or so. Jen & I both. Maybe it’s even two years, now, I don’t know. But one thing after another… life just taking its toll on us, as it seems to be so good at doing.
Is that why I have lost focus on my “dream”? Or did I just never have one?
When I was a very young kid, I wanted to be a weatherman. Yes, really! I would be sure to get in front of a TV and catch the full weather portion of the daily news broadcast. (As soon as it was over and the sports segment was up I made sure to turn it off as quickly as possible! Hated sports!) 🙂 But, as many early childhood dreams, that really amounted to nothing. I am still interested in science and specifically anything to do with the sky … but that’s about the extent of me living that dream.
As I got older, I imagined myself to be a writer. So much so that when I was pressed to decide what I would do with my life at the ripe old age of sixteen, I chose “Journalism”. Seemed to make sense. A career as a writer! Who could ask for more?
Except, I don’t think writing is my “dream”.
A year at the Journalism school yielded little more than a still-strong allegiance to the Green and White. (I only took one journalism course, and I really don’t remember a thing about it.) I soon transitioned to a local university before deciding to pursue another “dream” and finish my undergraduate work at Cincinnati Bible College.
As I got to be an older teenager, I did grow to love sports. I really could throw the football better than most people I knew. It came pretty easy, but also from lots of “reps”, as they call it in the world of football. I was always throwing a football, even with no one to throw it to! Maybe playing football was my dream?
So while at MSU, I decided to try to walk on with the varsity football team. That was promptly put down, but my “dream” was not.
At the University at Buffalo, I joined the spring football team practice and workouts. Sadly, I never got to play any football. My class schedule conflicted with football practice, so all I got to do was add some muscle to my frame in the weight room. I did also get to meet Joe Reich, brother of the quite famous Buffalo Bills backup QB, Frank Reich, of the Greatest Comeback lore. Joe was the team’s coach in charge of the spring football practices.
Coach Reich was also a believer. We talked about football, about his brother, and also about our common faith. I told him how I’d always wanted to play football (though, “always” was definitely a stretch, I’d say) and, while talking about that dream, we also talked about what I was slowly realizing was maybe my “real” dream: full-time ministry.
I’d been wrestling with that for much of my second year of college. It seemed like God was impressing upon me that there was nothing else that mattered to me than helping people live in the everyday reality of life with a loving Father. I wanted to help people know the same Jesus I had come to know. He was so much more than I’d ever imagined him to be, and I knew others would want to know that, too!
And so I decided to pursue my dream. I left football, and journalism (and, hardest of all, meteorology…) and began taking classes toward a degree from a(n undergrad) seminary.
The funniest part about that dream is that I knew that it wasn’t what I was made to do before I even started it! I nearly did the “kicking and screaming” routine on the way to following this leading! I told God, “I do NOT want to be a preacher!!” And I didn’t. Still don’t. And, I never was (unless filling that role once or twice counts against you?) 🙂
And yet, as I pursued that dream, it felt right. Like I was where I was meant to be. I didn’t completely fit in with the rest of the folks I was going to school with there. I even ended up finding an obscure way to live out my full-time ministry aspirations: Campus Ministry. After doing an internship at Miami University during my senior year, one thing led to another, and I was hired by a church in New York to begin campus outreaches to local universities.
I was living my dream! Mostly… but no? Maybe I wasn’t.
I think I have forgotten to mention here that through the football dream, during the journalism dream (but well after the Weatherman dream) … the lovely Jen Walker was a big part of my dream. 🙂 In a story much too long to share here, God helped me see that I loved her, and I knew I could love her forever as my wife. We remained good friends, kept in touch, and eventually—remember, this is the very short version—we were married! I am still currently living that dream!
(And adding these six amazing kids to the dream has definitely made that my favorite, most meaningful “dream” to date!)
Now, in the interest of keeping it brief… Oh, wait. I think I missed “brief”…
God has continued to seem to move me from one dream to another throughout my life. Maybe you are like that, too? Or maybe you’re more like MLK. He knew what he was made to do, and he did it. He made the bold choices that changed the world. (He apparently made some other poor choices, too. And his bold/good choices got him killed. So it’s not all rosy… but he still had more courage to see his dream come to fruition than most of us do.)
From campus ministry, the seeds of sharing the Life of God through music that had been planted years earlier began to sprout and grow, and before we knew it, we were actually traveling the country singing my songs in every place you can imagine. We were full-time, independent musicians! And it sure seemed that God was arranging so many of the details. It was a fun ride, to be sure. We were living the dream!
Let’s recap. My dreams so far have been:
- Full-time ministry
- Campus ministry
- Jen… and our kids
And now, for the past eight years or so, I’ve been designing/building/developing websites for people and businesses. That’s been a great blessing to us. My love for and understanding of technology has certainly lent itself to this “dream”, though to be honest, this has always felt like more of a job than a dream.
But related to the website building, I managed to create a few podcasts. The Buffalo Bills Review allowed me to live out the football “dream” while also writing, and using technology. That was a pretty good “dream”, but it never earned enough money to justify the time I was putting into it.
AND, I have yet to share this story more publicly, but just about a year ago we were really, really close to opening a restaurant! Now that is pretty close to a dream right there. Maybe the closest. I love making food for people, I love being with people… both of those and more fit right in with the plans we had for the restaurant.
That is currently not my wife’s dream, though, and God saw fit to swiftly and decisively close all of the doors we though he had opened toward the restaurant endeavor. It was sad, a bit shocking, but in retrospect, definitely wise and needed for the year that was to come. (I love when we can see Father’s wisdom in the recent past.)
All of this to say, I sit here in early 2012, nearing four decades of existence on this planet, and I’m really not sure what my “Dream” is. I don’t think I’m having a mid-life crisis. I don’t feel like it’s a “crisis”. I just really can’t say what it is that is at the core of me. That distant, unattainable goal that is irresistably drawing me to itself.
Is that normal? Is it normal to wonder that?
I’d guess that it is. You might not know what your “dream” is, either.
But I do know a few very important things.
One, Jen and our kids are definitely one of my dreams. I want to spend my days pouring myself into them.
I was not wrong when I first realized that all I wanted to do in life was help people know Jesus the way I had come to know him. That’s looked different all through my life, but that is still definitely at the core of who I am.
I do still get to write (as you can see here… in this very long post!) and I do play football with my kids, and I do still make music (usually with my kids) and I certainly get to make food for people (most often my kids…)
Hmm. Could it be that simple? Have I found my dream?
That’s where I might be defining “dream” differently than I need to.
Each day I get to do all of those things for and with my family. I even get to “help people live in the everyday reality of life with a loving Father”. It just happens that the “people” are most often my wife and kids. 🙂
Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song for his wife, Mary Beth, called One Little Heartbeat at a Time. The chorus says:
You, you are changing the world
One little heartbeat at a time
Making history with every touch and every smile
Oh, you, you may not see it now
But I believe that time will tell
How you, you are changing the world
One little heartbeat at a time
I may not be leading huge marches, or speaking to hundreds of thousands of people. I may never have a holiday in my honor. (You never know, though, I suppose…)
But I do love my kids. So much. And I am so glad that I get to spend my life with Jen, who is still my favorite person in the world.
That really is my dream. I don’t know that I have a “dream” job, or a life-cause as most might see it. But I do have a dream. I have a dream that one day my kids will live full lives of being loved by their true Father, and loving and serving everyone he places around them. I have a dream that one day my kids will be known by the content of their character, not by anything position they hold or possessions they own. I have a dream that one day I will get to see their kids—my grandkids—and the joy that God has given us in being the parents of these six new Image Bearers will multiple many fold.
I want to love and be loved. Loved by my Father, and love all who are around me. I want to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. Wherever and how that plays out every day is very secondary.
So I guess I do have a dream. And—lucky me—I’m living it!