I’d sit in school, looking at the books on the shelves and daydream that one day my name would be on one of them.
I wanted my words to matter. I wanted to impact people. I wanted to be significant.
And then it happened.
I co-authored my first book in 2015. I squealed when I went to the local Books-A-Million and found my book on the bookshelf. But that moment of joy quickly dissipated. In fact, throughout the whole process, I felt little joy — only this incredible pressure to produce and perform.
The book’s release only added more pressure: Now I had to make it a success. I had to make sure it sold. I wanted to make sure that people liked it. I wanted to feel like it was all worth it.
But no matter what I did, it never felt like enough. I needed to do more. I needed to be more. Or it would all go away. I was miserable.
About the same time I was also going through an incredibly brutal stretch of my chronic autoimmune disease. Completely broken, I remember telling God one day, “If this is how ministry has to be done, if this is what it means to be an author, I’m out. Show me a different way.”
And He said, “Let it go.” What? “Let it go?!” But I had worked so hard. Really? Let it go?
Slowly He worked on my heart. And slowly, I let go of trying to perform. I let go of trying to be the darling of the Internet. I let go of my idea of what my dreams “should” look like.
Good grief. It has been all crazy twists and turns since then. I’ve done pretty much nothing that the experts say you should do to be a “success.” And I’m sure I’m not, by their standards. But guess what?
I don’t care.
Yes, I still struggle. I doubt. My pride and ambition rear their ugly heads. I can so easily and often make it about me again.
But then I keep coming back to this beautiful reality: None of that brought me joy. I’ve gained so much more than anything I let go of.
I’ve gained Jesus — a growing and deeper, more real and accurate view of who He is. And, friends, that is everything. Like never before, I’m experiencing the sweetness of His presence, His voice, His leading, His joy.
That’s what happens when we quit following our dreams and start following the Dream Giver.
As I follow Him, instead of my dreams, He’s leading my path in entertaining and unexpected ways. He’s given me back my dreams but with a new energy and direction — His! I have a new sense of joy and perspective.
I have no idea where it’s all going. That used to terrify me. Now I think it’s an adventure!
Because I’m not in charge. He is. It’s not about my performance, my name, my worth or my agenda. It’s not even about an outcome. It’s about Him. Following and knowing Him. Period.
No book contract, no “viral” post, no speaking engagement can compare to that. Not even remotely close.
God didn’t give us dreams so we could perform more for Him. He gives us dreams so we can know Him more.
So we can be in continual dependence on Him and experience more of who He is. In that process of continual submission, we live out who He created us to be. And we bless many people.
Today, I feel free. Free from having to perform. Free from so many other things.
He wants you to be free, too, sweet dreamer. He gave you those dreams. Now he wants you to let them go of them. Here’s some important ways it can set you free:
It frees us from an ideal picture
In my late 20’s, I began to sense God calling me to write and speak for Him. I had this picture in my mind of how it was going to happen and what it would look like.
The way He equipped me has not been my ideal picture. Twenty years of chronic pain. A child with a life-threatening illness called cystic fibrosis. A very, long difficult stretch in my marriage. A strong-willed child who stretched me at times to my very limits.
Does He cause illness and pain in our lives? No, I don’t think so. But I do believe He allows it. I don’t always understand all the reasons.
But I’m learning to choose to trust Him. Moment by moment. Because He is good. I am convinced of that.
So many times, I cried out to God, “What are you doing? I’m trying so hard to serve you and all these things keep getting in my way.”
And then over the process of following Him these last couple of years, I’m finally understanding: Some of my worst nightmares are part of what God is using to fulfill dreams He put in my heart.
We can’t meet the need and pain of others until we are intimately acquainted with it ourselves.
We can’t pour it out until we’ve lived it out.
It frees us from a timetable.
Sometimes God gives us the dream long before it’s time for that dream to blossom. God gave Joseph a dream that He would be a great ruler more than a decade before its fulfillment.
In the meantime, He experienced slavery and prison. And he grew into all that he would need to be to be the ruler he dreamed about.
In today’s society, we want instant gratification. We want our dreams to unfold now, please.
But Jesus says, “Follow Me.” Follow and trust are synonymous. If we trust, we can wait. We can enjoy the process.
God never wastes the wait.
Why else does God share the dream so long before the fulfillment, like with Joseph? I don’t know all the answers, but here’s one I’ve discovered: It keeps us going. Through all the years of pain and struggle — parenting, marriage, health, when I saw no fruit, when the dream seemed to die, I would reflect back on moments when God clearly spoke to those dreams to me and it would keep me going.
It frees us to enjoy the journey
I want to know the outcome before I begin. I want to know how the dream is going to end and how it’s going to unfold.
Trying to figure everything out has robbed me of joy. But when I let go of my dreams and put God in control, I don’t have to figure it all out. I’m not responsible for an outcome. I simply have to trust Him and follow His leading, step by step.
When we follow Jesus, we don’t have to make things happen, we watch things happen. Imagine you’re riding your bicycle. When you cycle closely behind the leader, a phenomenon called “drafting” occurs. The downdraft created by the leader sucks you in and pushes you forward.
That’s what happens when we get close to Jesus. The closer we are to Him, the more He propels us. And the more we experience of who He is on the journey.
We experience His power. We can savor the sweetness of where we are right now. We can trust and rest in knowing the One we’re following has it all under control. The unknown becomes an adventure.
Are you exhausted trying to make your dreams come true?
Let go of the dream and embrace the Dream Giver, friend. He’s waiting to set you free.