My friend Jesse’s a recording producer, not to mention an incredible musician. Every so often, he would make a disc for me and a few other close friends. The disc contained the most jaw-droppingly bad songs recorded in his studio over the previous year.
Don’t misunderstand—Jesse’s production is impeccable. However, no amount of studio technology can fix a tone-deaf singer and a really lousy song. He’s just a producer, not Elijah calling fire down from heaven.
Occasionally, when we needed a break from the hard work of recording, he would pull up one of these gems. We would sit there listening, our snickering and snorts evolving into gales of laughter. In those evening sessions, his wife would come downstairs to find us doubled over, literally holding our sides in spasms and tears.
Trust me, we never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. After we regained our composure, we’d feel a bit guilty. I’d say something like, “Bless their hearts” (which is pastor-speak for “what an idiot”), and we’d snort all over again. But I did truly feel bad for them.
It’s sad when someone has a dream they’ve set their heart on, but they’ll never reach. And each of those horrible songs were someone’s dreams. They believed enough to invest money and time to have them preserved for posterity. Some of them are still sitting at home right now, waiting for that call from a music company that will catapult them to stardom.
From the recordings I heard, that’s gonna be a pretty long wait.
Many of them can’t move on to other goals because they’ll never allow themselves to be happy until they achieve theirs. Their dreams drain the joy out of an otherwise full life, as other opportunities for true happiness pass them by.
I have another friend who’s nothing like those awkward dreamers I just described. He’s truly talented, a phenomenal singer. He almost hit it big a couple of years ago, only to get sabotaged and badly hurt. Now that unfulfilled dream hangs around him like a weight.
He sat on my couch the other day and played me a new song he’d written, which sounds as good or better than anything on the radio. But now he knows sounding good is only a fraction of the equation for success: the rest is just luck. So he waits and wonders if this time, his break will come…
Regardless of whether you are my talented friend or those self-deluded singers I couldn’t help but laugh at, I have some advice for you. However, it will probably counteract what everyone else is telling you.
I know that what I’m supposed to tell frustrated dreamers are things like “Follow your dreams” and “Listen to your heart.” That sounds so affirming, and something deep within us tells us that’s exactly the right advice.
But the reason it sounds so right is it’s because it’s exactly what we all want to hear.
Instead, if I could say anything to you in your pursuit of some dream, it would be this:
Stop following your dreams! Stop it right now!
And for heaven’s sake, stop listening to your heart!
The hard truth is that, in spite of what we’re dreaming, we really have no idea whatsoever what we really want. If we ever finally have it in our grasp, we’ll look down on it to realize it’s nothing like as beautiful as we expected it to be.
The Bible tips us off to the con-job our hearts are playing on us:
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
This verse makes the cause of our problem very easy to understand: our hearts are liars. They make huge assumptions about things our tiny little brains are way too small to comprehend. We wouldn’t know a good dream if it came up and introduced itself to us!
Our deceitful dreams detour us from the ones for which God actually created us. We end up missing the superior dreams our Father planned for us, and waste our lives following nothing more than a mirage.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
How much easier life would be if we’d only listen to God’s dreams for us, and trash the ones we’ve constructed in ignorance.
I remember driving my son home after he played a football game when he was around 12 years old. He was hot and sweaty, and wanted me to stop for a drink. But I secretly wanted him to get changed at home so I could take him for a Guys Day Out, including a movie, hamburgers, and ice cream. I couldn’t wait to surprise him.
The problem was, he just couldn’t shut up about that drink. And his insistent whining made me want to pull the car over at the nearest 7-11 and in disgust say, “Fine. Go get your drink. Hope you enjoy it—that’s all you’ll be getting from me today!”
How many of our Father’s better dreams have we missed because we couldn’t stop whining about our punier ones? How many blessings of God’s blessings have we missed because we decided we just couldn’t be happy without some silly, self-absorbed reach for personal glory?
My friend with the beautiful voice is in the process of laying his dreams down before God and letting him decide which ones are worth pursuing, and which ones need to be left to die on the altar. If God grants him opportunities and fame, it will be so he can use it for God’s purposes. But if not, God has something even better for him
That’s what you need to do with that dream of yours you keep focusing on. Lay it down on the altar and give it to God. That way, if God raises it back up to life, you’ll know it’s God’s dream and it will have God’s power. Those are the dreams nothing can destroy!
Or else, you can demand your own way and sit by the phone, waiting for the call that says you’ve won life’s lottery…
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.