It’s quite hard not to be sucked in by philosophies which tell you to ‘follow your dream’; the ones which say ‘you can do anything if you put your mind to it’ and promise you can change the world if only you don’t give up. It’s there in High School Musical, the X-factor, the Olympics and almost anything else you care to mention. It’s positive and hopeful. But it’s also individualistic and unrealistic. Although hard graft is crucial, determination is not a free ticket for any dream of our choosing to be realised.
The problem is this philosophy has started to infiltrate our Christian teaching. Now, don’t get me wrong: sometimes God gives very specific visions or dreams, and if that happens, I humbly suggest you do what you’re told. Just ask Jonah. But the maths doesn’t work. We won’t change the world by each trying to be a one-man band, following our own dream.
However, many of us feel left behind in the race to change the world because we don’t feel we have that unique dream. Has God forgotten to give us a job? Did we miss that email? Would we know if only we’d gone to one more seminar? If we’d been prayed for one more time? Or perhaps done one more gifting course?
This search for our own dream is often, I believe, driven by our culture and our own pride more than any biblical principle. Sometimes, we just want a little bit of the kingdom that we can call our own, be in charge of and perhaps, even take the credit for.
So this is my suggestion: We stop looking for ‘what Jesus wants to do with my life’, and ask Jesus what he wants us to do today.
We need to let our life be our ministry. Great ministries often start with people doing things as they go along anyway, they don’t wait for a head office. For example, a friend of mine started a café for homeless people. The organisation started very humbly and the work has exploded magnificently. He had clear revelations from God that this was what he should do, but when I asked him about this ‘calling’ he said: “Well, you hardly need to wait for that. There’s plenty in the Bible telling you to feed the hungry.”
In the absence of Jesus giving us a specific dream to fulfil, we have plenty to be getting on with. Let’s do the work of the kingdom in any small way we can; in our streets, schools and workplaces be raising up the lowly, pursuing justice and mercy, comforting those who mourn – all spreading the good news that Jesus is alive. And as we go along, I’m sure we’ll be given further instructions.
You could start by looking after a neighbour. Perhaps it will lead to some great multi-national charity: probably it won’t, but it was still the right thing to do. And these little acts change us. It’s only as we start doing stuff we see how much we could do. We don’t need to know where to start, because I don’t think it matters, as long as it’s somewhere and now.
Let’s be really excited when we see our brothers and sisters’ ministries succeeding. Let’s celebrate with them and join in, learn from them, even if we think it could have been done better. Let’s pro-actively, creatively and sacrificially support others in their dreams and callings.
So maybe you should follow your dreams, but the dream we’re all asked to follow is this: “Pick up your cross daily, and follow me.”