Imagine taking a child to his first baseball game. During the first inning, the first batter swings at the first pitch, lifting a soft fly ball that comes directly to the boy’s seat. With his glove in place, the boy snags the pop up, collecting a souvenir and a memory that will last him a lifetime. You may read this and think that this could never happen; the odds against it are astronomical! And statistically speaking they are, that is, they are to everyone other than that boy. I know people who have been to hundreds of games and have never come close to catching a ball. Those people appreciate the odds, they understand the rarity. But that’s not the case for the boy. He brought his glove in anticipation and found himself immediately rewarded. Imagine the thoughts that are going through his mind. He can’t wait for the next one to come, in fact, he begins to set an expectation in his mind that he will catch another ball. While the rest of us focus on the improbability, he lives with the belief that it will happen.
Some might consider the boy’s expectation unfortunate, unfounded, and unfair. To expect something to happen for you that the rest of the world knows is statistically improbable could be considered cruel. So what should be done? If you took the boy to the game, do you have an obligation to “set him straight”? Should you show him the thousands of other fans in the stadium who will not catch a ball today, this season, or ever? That may sound cruel, but it raises an interesting question. What’s worse: letting the boy live in the expectation of something that may not come to pass for years – if ever, or giving the boy evidence and a logical explanation of why his expectation is wrong? One leaves the dreamer on a long and potentially fruitless journey. The other kills not only the dream but the spirit of the dreamer.
For many people, the transition from childhood to adulthood is marked by abandoning their dreams. Astronauts and superheroes turn into accountants and delivery men. Actresses and princesses turn into grocery store clerks and secretaries. This isn’t meant to belittle any profession a person chooses for their life. It is designed to raise another simple question: Why did the dream have to die? Did God tell us that in order to move on from boy to man, from girl to woman we also had to go from dreamer to realist? Was the sacrificing of our dreams the price of maturity? What happened to the dream that God placed inside of us – the one given to show us a glimpse of the destiny that He had laid before us? Where did we leave it? Why did we abandon it?
Or did we?
I can’t really speak for the world in this. I can only speak from my own perspective. According to the world, I have arrived at a crossroad. September 2, 2010 is my 39th birthday (the first one). And as I take a moment to pause and reflect, I recognize many things from the first 39 years that are going to help me flourish in the 84 years that I have left.
I have learned many things from my family. God blessed me with parents, a grandmother and sister who used the best of their God-given abilities to prepare me for the life God created me to live. I have experienced successes in various work and recreational pursuits which have helped me to develop skills for my ministry and my life. I have met people who have guided, taught, and befriended me. I have set and achieved goals, earned awards, and celebrated victories that have brought me joy. Conversely, I have also experienced failures in many ventures. I have firsthand knowledge of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pain. I have made mistakes that have hurt me and the people I care about most. I have been selfish, undisciplined, and unethical. I’ve felt love, I’ve felt hate, and at times I’ve felt nothing in an attempt to hide from those other two emotions. Through all of this, there is one thing that I have learned that stands out more than anything else. For longer than I care to admit, I have lived a life outside of the dream God gave me. In doing so, I have delayed realizing my destiny. With the help of Jesus, today is the day I will begin the process of reclaiming it.
When I was young, I wanted to write. I loved the idea of telling stories and talking with other people. I liked performances and participated in theater groups. By the time I was in high school I knew that I wanted to become a writer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, but I knew that this was my passion and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
And then she walked in…
I noticed her at a choir concert. For some strange reason, she kept looking at me. This made no sense – I was awkward, overweight, had limp stringy blonde hair and had been assured by several of my female schoolmates that I was completely undesirable. But I just knew she was looking at me. We talked the next day – about what I have no idea but we seemed to find quite a bit to say. For the next 2 ½ years we kept on finding new things to talk about. It felt great to have someone choose to like me in that way. In our discussions, I discovered that she wanted to be a teacher. Knowing that someday high school would end and we would “need” to be together in college led me to decide that I also wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t my dream, but with maturity comes a refocusing of our dreams – at least that’s how I justified it. Little did I know that fear was driving my decision, nor did I care – after all this was what I was “supposed” to do. So when we broke up during my freshman year of college, I was left with a choice – reacquire my dream or just move on. Content just to keep moving forward and too spiritually immature to seek God’s will in prayer, I pursued education.
Four years later, the man that stepped into his first classroom in Kansas City, KS was a vastly different person. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I quickly began to figure things out. I was also newly married. Again, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I thought that would also come in time. Once again, I just knew that because we were both graduating we had to get married. After two years in KC, I returned home to Michigan as both a typical teacher and a typical husband. I was now 25, no longer a child, about to become a father, and expected to be a leader. I approached my job, my family, my life with a drive and a passion, but behind the scenes I was lost. Something was still missing – something important. I began to search for whatever it was that would fill the void that continued to grow in my life. Coaching, directing, youth work, Bible studies, messages, fantasy football, fishing, golf, socializing, beer drinking, dining, weekend trips and so on. I was looking for something in each of these activities, but what that thing was and how to find it was a complete mystery to me. So I kept searching while the void kept growing.
Nothing was satisfying my needs: not work, not marriage, not friendships, not hobbies, nothing. I won’t go into the details, but what I can say is that each passing year brought greater hopelessness as I worked harder to find peace. But for all of my efforts I only made the situations worse. Frustration turned into despair. Despair turned into pain. Over time, my search for a lost dream turned into a search to find an escape from the hurt in my life. I was searching for peace, which for me was just as lost as that old dream. My search took me to places I never dreamed I would go, leading me to make decisions I knew were wrong and inconsistent with what God desired for me. The fixes were temporary at best and they brought with them serious consequences. Of course at the time I didn’t care – couldn’t care. Only later did I realize the ramifications of my actions and felt the full weight of the sins of my past. I stand here today, taking full responsibility for them, asking God and everyone I hurt in any way for their forgiveness.
Thank God the story doesn’t end there.
Since that day, I have been a continual work in progress. God has revealed truths to me over the past few years that have changed me in truly amazing ways. I am gaining ground, reclaiming things which had been lost and discovering promises that God has been waiting for me to be ready to claim. I haven’t found them all yet. But there is one that is coming into focus, one toward which I feel God leading me. It is the dream of my youth.
And so today, I establish a new confession that will direct the next chapter of my life.
By the grace of our amazing God, through the sacrifice of His Son, and with the help of the Holy Spirit in my life, I will…
- Make seeking the face of God my top priority. (Matthew 6:33)
- Start every day with quiet time, study, meditation, and prayer. (2 Chronicles 7:14-16)
- Discover the maximized blessing of God in my writing and speaking ministry as I transform it into my career. (Colossians 3:23)
- Produce and publish additional Bible studies. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Write and publish my first full-length book. (Psalm 19:14)
- Seek assistance in financial planning so that I can effectively manage both my personal and business accounts. (Isaiah 54:2-3)
- Manage my time efficiently so that I can accommodate the opportunities God is bringing to me. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
- Become a more effective father to my children. (Ephesians 6:4)
- Build a life with the Proverbs 31 woman that God has chosen for me. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
- Eliminate the old habits, patterns, and interests that have held me from my destiny in the past. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
- Attain the health goals I have set for myself and establish new ones as I continue to grow stronger. (3 John 2)
I thank my Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, that these things have already begun to happen. I pray that God will give me the strength, wisdom, and discernment to remain obedient to Him as I achieve not only these things, but the countless blessings He has in store for me that still lie beyond my imagination.
I may not have caught the ball yet, but I will continue to believe that one day I will. And as I feel it press into the webbing of my glove, I will know that by His grace, God will have returned me to my dream.
It is an honor to be called your friend. 🙂
You know that you are already a very talented writer, and those of us who read your blogs (should) know that as well. I have no doubt you will be a success at all your goals for your (first) 39th year and the many more to come. Happy Early Birthday!
Whoa, good stuff Slim. Laying yourself open for all to see. Great writing. Enjoyed it and moved me.
Wow! That was amazingly beautiful and honest. I hope you find much joy in searching after the dream that God put in your heart. This year has made me think a lot, too…
Again, that was excellent. I look forward to hearing / seeing where God leads you.
I loved reading this post. At my age, one looks back and sees a trail of both broken and fulfilled dreams….the dots do connect, make sense…..
I have a plaque in my study with these words…
“Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one.” God’s mystery, His plan….
I love reading your posts…..
This is truly inspiring and it happens to be dually inspiring as I have seen the literal change in shape of my professor. Your story reminds me of the story of two farmers that is told in Facing the Giants. Two farmers prayed to God to bring the rain for their crops, but only one prepared his fields and therefore that one is the only one who prayed with faith that the Lord would provide. That little boy who brought his glove prepared to be blessed by catching the ball and will continue to prepare his life for the blessings of God… You prayed for a renewal of your spirit and were ready and had prepared yourself when he sent you the people you needed help from to achieve those goals and receive the blessings God intended on your life. I look forward to reading your work in the future.