I know I’m a little late with this, but I think with graduation still in the air, I can get it out. But today, I want to talk about the topic closest to my heart—dreams. As children, we are taught, “Reach for your dreams, follow your heart. You can be anything you want to be. You just have to put your mind to it. It’s your American right.”
And, all of that is true. Even the American right thing. There is a certain responsibility to being born in the world’s largest economy. (And yes, if you are old enough to read this, we were the world’s largest economy when you were born). I like to think of it as, “To whom much is given much will be required.” So, our barometer of success and achievement is different here.
Dream big, we tell you. Reach for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars, we say. You are asked from a young age, what do you want to be when you grow up? Couch potato, basement video game player, is never an acceptable answer. From the start, we encourage you to dream big. And, most of us do.
Then, we graduate you. And in a shower of confetti and mortarboards, you don’t really hear the point behind, “Oh! The Places You Will Go.” Not really.
We hear that we can do anything we put our minds to, and sometimes, it will be hard. But if you “stay true to yourself” (whatever that means) by the end of the third act, you will reach your dreams, with the whole thing taking about a hour and a half. (Oh, and in the process you’ll find an attractive love interest that you would have thought to be unlikely). What a load of crock.
Here’s my question: how hard? How hard are you going to let it get before you turn around and give up?
My freshman year in college, Bill Wilson, a very famous children’s minister who works in the heart of New York City, spoke in my campus chapel. He told this story of a bright eyed nineteen year old student, who had passionately told him, “I want to get where you are.”
Bill laughed. “Son,” he said. “You don’t know where you are, much less where I am. And certainly not what it takes to get there.” Bill then went on to tell stories about how he had picked abused children out of the snow, with roaches nesting in their ears, to take them to church. He talked about a colleague in Haiti who had found a dying orphan with his guts literally falling out of his body. To get the child medical help, she had to bribe criminals to take them across a dangerous river in the middle of the night. “That’s what it takes to get where I am,” Bill pounded the pulpit.
Administration later softened the sermon, and in a round about way, tried to strike it from the record. It was too harsh. Today’s students needed to hear, “If you graduate and work hard, then you’ll be prosperous.” Simple mathematical formula.
But I think Bill’s sermon was some of the best career advice I ever got in college. Everyone wants to be great. And we all have big dreams.
And if your dream burns passionately within you, that’s great. You want to be this, and in the Christian world, we say, you are “called,” for that. Or, you have had prophetic words that you will do this, or prophetic dreams about that…As if destiny was just waiting there, ripe for the picking. That’s not the way it works. If it were that way, then why wouldn’t everyone reach their potential?
Not to invalidate your calling, anointing, or destiny. I think it’s wonderful. But how far are you willing to go to get there?
Are you willing to give up everything? I mean everything. Are you willing to give up financial security? Are you willing to take detours that make no sense? Are you willing to hear, I mean really hear, that you are crazy and throwing your life away?
Are you willing to forsake the advice of everyone who loves you, to do what you know you have to do? Are you willing to watch your contemporaries pass you up, and tell yourself you will get where you are doing, some illusive “one day”? And most of all, are you willing to fail?
Because for everyone who dreams big, this is what it takes. This is what Disney doesn’t tell you, when they say to follow your heart. Dreams are life’s biggest blessing. It is our fundamental right to being human.
Dreams are what we mean when we say, “the land of the free…” and “Give me liberty or give me death.” We are demanding the right to be, and be whatever our minds conceive. That’s what freedom is.
But, what they don’t tell you, is that freedom can hurt like hell. And, then what do you do? Are you strong enough to handle destiny?