I walked while I listened to her gentle voice through my AirPods. I listened to her story, her desires, her longings. I listened as she described her calling. Her voice slowed down. I increased my speed on the gym treadmill. Her words fumbled around for minutes before they landed here, “I want to write a book.” This sentence was followed by disclaimers, all of her failed attempts, and cautious questions. I have had this conversation before. It wasn’t about writing a book, but it has always been about a dream of some sort. A dream of going back to school, starting a business, buying a camera, taking a class, stepping away from a 9–5 job.
I kept walking.
I remember walking up and down the hills of my old neighborhood with a massive stroller. The baby wasn’t in the stroller, but wailing in my arms as I pushed it — empty. I was still far away from home. The weight of my loneliness was far greater than the weight of my child. I wanted a way out of this feeling. So in all the in between moments, I fantasized my way out of this life. I imagined careers that were creative and, of course, well paid. I imagined doing something meaningful like starting non-profits or a business that helped the displaced. I imagined a life where I could escape the long days of breastfeeding and sleep training. I dreamed of doing something that could bring me into a better life. A life where I didn’t feel lonely or useless or tired. So, I dreamed. I dreamed of something I could do that could take me out of my pain.
I remember walking the aisles of the camera store, the Apple store, the art and design store. I walked between extremes of excitement and the fear of failure. If I was going to go anywhere with my dreams, I had to make it happen. I was anxious. I was afraid. I was desperate at times too. I felt pressure to work hard and the panic of not working hard enough.
My pace on the treadmill was consistent now. In silence I listened to her navigate her desires as though she was in a dark room dodging a spotlight. Then I said, “You don’t have to figure it out.” I heard her almost exhale. That’s the biggest mistake I ever made with my dreams. I had a spark of inspiration and then I immediately started trying to figure out how to make it happen.
Every single dream I tried to figure out — failed. Every dream I walked by faith led to fruition in one form or another.
God gives us dreams not to take us out of our lives, our loneliness, our pain, our discouragement, or our anxiety. Rather, we are called to enter into our lives. By doing this, we enter our dreams too. God drops dreams into our imagination because He calls us to do art in the dark places. Write the book in the dim hours of morning light. Advocate for the poor out of your own poverty. Train your eyes to capture beauty before you ever pick up a camera. Become a wife not by desperately searching for the right man, but by becoming the woman God has designed you to be. The dream of a house doesn’t come by means of your good fortune, but by the hospitality God is growing in you every day.
Dreams aren’t fulfilled in boardrooms, better systems, or strategies, but in the quiet desperation of your own soul’s sanctuary. In the pew of continuous petition, in the slow cup of suffering, in the growling hunger for the Word, in the worship of the one true God, and in the baptism of all forms of idolatry and the rising of unexplainable freedom — this is where dreams grow breath and bones.
Dreams, the ones you are really called to, don’t happen by magic, marketing tips, or sales numbers. They don’t happen by your genius, good time management, networking, or number crunching. Dreams certainly don’t come from your ability to figure them out. Because the dreams that matter most have little to do with results and everything to do with your formation. God is always, every time, and all the time about the formation of your heart to know His good, wide, and endless love. His dream for you is to be deeply formed by His expansive love. You, growing into your belovedness is God’s greatest desire for your life.
When a dream emerges, resist doing something to make.it.happen. Nowhere in Scripture does God say—try harder, do more, figure it out, make connections, it’s all on you, time is running out. Actually, the instructions God gives are quite the opposite. He says—Come to me, rest, abide, trust, you are not alone, I will be with you until the end of the ages, I will prepare a place for you.
Beware of the alluring temptations within your dreams. They will temp to take you away from the life God has given you. Even dreams for the Lord can take you from Him. Relieve yourself of the pressure to figure it out. Instead, step into your own soul, enter your life, be committed to the creativity you are called to, and trust the Lord is faithful.
Most of all, walk in love.