“Dreaming” hasn’t always come easily for me.
I’ve always admired my brother’s naturally confident disposition, his believing mindset, and his ability to dream with ease. I don’t know if it’s a mixture of my temperament and life experiences, but I’ve always approached life with significantly more caution, somewhat afraid to dream big out of fear of being “unrealistic” (yes, even if I know that launching rockets into space, owning a personal computer, or getting a heart transplant were once deemed “unrealistic” too—until they became real). Sometimes I forget that we aren’t just limited by reality; we create it.
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” I’ve heard this quote a dozen times, but it only hit me now: of course dreams are supposed to scare you. I don’t know why I ever thought fear and desire couldn’t co-exist. That’s the strange contradiction that comes with desire: wanting more means acknowledging what you don’t already have. That’s why dreaming brings excitement, hope, and anticipation in addition to fear, pain, and even shame.
As the theorists behind Japanese Morita Therapy suggest, fear and desire are just two sides to the same coin: fear of death is the desire for life; fear of rejection is the desire for acceptance; fear of failure is the desire for success. If two sides to the same coin are inseparable (i.e. if fear and desire are inseparable) then the outcome of our lives is determined by which side we focus on most. Separating them is impossible.
That leaves us with two choices: we either spend our lives running from our fears (while running from our desires), or we pursue our desires (while pursuing our fears). Our choices determine whether we are propelled or paralyzed, inspired or shamed, by our dreams/fears. That’s the difference between someone who spends their life ‘avoiding death’ versus ‘living fully’.
A friend of mine shared an article called Dream Big: If Your Goals Don’t Scare You, They’re Too Small featuring an interview with Mark Batterson, who reminds us of the necessity of dreaming bigger than what’s “realistic”:
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-given passions. Go after a dream that’s destined to fail without divine intervention. Stop pointing out problems. Become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past. Start creating the future. Face your fears. Fight for your dreams. Grab opportunity by the name and don’t let go. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Dare to fail. Dare to be different. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the Lion.”
It was a profound wake-up call for me. Who am I to determine what is “realistic” for me when “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)? Perhaps the extent to which we dream reveals the extent to which we hope in God. Perhaps our limited mindsets indicate of over-reliance on ourselves and forgetfulness of what God can do with his grace.
The soul dies when it’s caged. Our self-imposed limitations make us sick, slowly. Perhaps God has planted an internal compass in our hearts that refuses to let us settle for lives that are smaller than the ones we are called to live. No wonder we feel mysteriously disturbed when we live below our potential. As Matthew Kelly says, love never asks, “What is the least I can do?” It always asks, “What is the most I can do?” Love always demands more. God demands more.
As the New Year approaches, I will leave you with words from Pope Francis from his World Youth Day 2016 address:
It pains me to meet young people who seem to have opted for ‘early retirement’. I worry when I see young people who have ‘thrown in the towel’ before the game has even begun, who are defeated even before they begin to play, who walk around glumly as if life has no meaning.”
“Jesus expects something from you. God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our way of seeing things. He comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.”
Happy New Year!