One of the most piercing bits of advice I’ve ever heard comes from Rudyard Kipling’s inspiring poem, “If.” He wrote, simply, “dream” but don’t make “dreams your master.” It is counsel we should all take to heart.
We live in an age that urges us all to dream big dreams, to pursue the great adventure of our destiny, and to be the unique creatures each of us is meant to be. I’m glad for these urgings. As a Christian, I believe in a God who has determined purposes for us all. The Celtic Christians understood God as the “Destiny Weaver,” and I find this an apt summary of what scripture tells us. We are each unique creations, potentially endowed with great gifts in order to achieve a glorious destiny determined before time by a sovereign God. The original language of Ephesians 2:10 even tells us that we are “God’s carefully crafted poem, written in advance for divinely ordained moments still ahead of us.”
I believe it. I love it. I’m grateful for it. I want to fulfill all that is true of me.
Yet, I have to tell you that I’ve begun running into a great deal of foolishness that misguided people have spun from these truths. I’ve had to challenge men who nearly abandoned their families while they pursued their artistic dreams. I’ve corrected more than a few of my young friends who ran from normal jobs because they couldn’t understand how anything common or difficult was part of “living out my dream.” I’ve also had to encourage many friends—and I’m happy to do it—who decided they had missed “God’s dream” for their lives because they were merely successful at some “secular” job. They were grieved they never did anything “exceptional.”
Listen, there is certainly a divine purpose for your life. The “author and finisher” of your life and faith will make sure your purpose is fulfilled if you are willing and obedient. But hear me: this happens while you tend the earthly business before you. In fact, earthly business is where destinies are hammered out. You do “whatever your hand finds to do” and a wise God weaves your life from that point to his destined purposes.
We don’t chase dreams. We don’t run from responsibilities to achieve dreams. We aren’t excused from the normal or the difficult or the natural because we dream big dreams. The truth is we prove ourselves capable of sustaining our great purposes in life by tending the small and the natural well. Making dreams our master, to paraphrase Kipling, leads to poverty, frustration, and the “unbearable lightness of being.”
If you are guilty of this, stop it! Do carry hopes and visions in your heart. Nurture them. Prepare yourself for them. But in the meantime, throw yourself into the duties before you, trusting that God can build greatness in as you flip burgers, mow grass, or dig ditches.
Dream. Dream big. And while you do, work hard. Produce. Grow. Become someone worthy of being entrusted with dreams fulfilled.
Thank you, Mr. Kipling.
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