Don’t let your dreams breed discontent

Reach for the stars!

Hard work and sacrifice pay off!

Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality!

She believed she could, and so she did!

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it!

I think most of us have heard some or all of these motivational phrases during our lives, maybe we’ve even said a few to encourage our friends or children. Maybe we have posters hanging in our office or classroom with these or similar maxims.

{raises hand}

Chasing after super-sized goals and bold dreams is a beautiful thing. I think it connects us to our humanity. It crosses the divides of age, gender, culture, race, and religion. It’s how progress is made and change is initiated.

But there seems to be a growing wariness around the connection between dreaming big and feeling discontent. Especially among women.

Never have women had more opportunities available to us than we do today. Thanks to better access to quality education, greater opportunities for start-up businesses, and, let’s face it, social media, there’s been a rise in successful, seemingly “self-made” women cheering on the rest of us with their mantras of “lean-in”, “stop apologizing”, and just “say yes”. Women can now “brave the wilderness”, “live beyond fear”, and discover that “the universe has our back”. It all sounds so enticing doesn’t it? Wrapped up in pretty paper covered packages, it seems like success is just within our reach.

But is it?

Now please don’t misunderstand, this is not a criticism of these books or the authors, some of whom I happen to respect and admire. Admittedly, I have not read most of the mentioned books, and for all I know some of them may be chock-full of sound advice and truth. But what I do read are articles, blog posts and letters from women who feel like they are not enough. I hear friends share the overwhelming amount of anxiety and pressure they feel to do more, be more, achieve more. I see my daughters, still teenagers, combating an image of perfection that they believe they must achieve in everything they try. And I have battled my own feelings of discontent and failure — both professionally and personally.

Here’s what I don’t hear or read much of:

“I’m so happy with my life, right where it is.”

“God has blessed me with a season where I can slow down and smell the roses.”

“I am enough. Right here, right now, just as I am. I am enough.”

And it concerns me that we’ve mistaken chasing after dreams as an obligation to be more. We’ve misunderstood our goals to be a yard stick showing us just how we measure up (or don’t) based on achievement. We’ve decided our resumes are a better indication of our value and worth than our hearts.

It’s so damaging. So detrimental. So not in alignment with God’s calling for our lives.

God has no problem with us dreaming big or achieving success. Some of God’s chosen were very successful in life — just look at Job, Boaz, Joseph, and David. But God does make it clear that any success we have is to bring him glory. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

This is where I think some of the modern day mantra of chasing our dreams and striving for success falls short. So often the ones touting their own success — and their six simple steps to achieving our own — make it all about them, or me, or we. But never about He.

As long as we are dreaming big and striving for that glass ceiling as a means to bring recognition and praise to our own name, we are inevitably going to feel a sense of discontent. Even when we achieve a big milestone or goal, the feeling of satisfaction will be temporary, and we’ll already be looking at the next great thing; because when it’s all about us, it’s never enough.

When it’s all about me, having 2,000 people read my blog is not enough. When it’s all about Him, having one person touched or encouraged by something I wrote is enough.

When it’s all about me, having the same mid-level job for ten years is not enough. When it’s all about Him, working hard, demonstrating kindness and respect to my coworkers is enough.

When it’s all about me, staying home all day wiping noses, folding clothes, preparing meals, and vacuuming carpets is not enough. When it’s all about Him, loving on my children and caring for my family is enough.

When it’s all about me, pastoring a church with 75 members and never enough in the collection plate is not enough. When it’s all about Him, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and shepherding even one of those 75 is enough.

I’m not saying to throw in the towel and stop dreaming. I’ve still got big dreams for this little blog and my tiny, start-up ministry. But I also know that whatever success I have is only because of Him, and only so that I can bring Him glory. If my work leads to 10 more people knowing His name that will be a much greater success than 10,000 people knowing mine.

 

Success

Cover photo by Katrina on Unsplash

5 thoughts on “Don’t let your dreams breed discontent”

  1. Jelise,
    God has certainly blessed you with a gift of heartfelt communication. May you continue to follow your heart, as it chases after His.
    Your words have soothed my soul this early morning.
    Love,
    Aunt Margaret

  2. Love it! Love you and your Holt spirit inspired words. When we remember do everything for Gods glory even the most mundane tasks have more meaning.
    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Col. 3:23

  3. I went to hear a speaker about ten years ago and he said something I will never forget. In fact just thinking about it now brings many emotions back to me.

    He told about a time when he was in the navy, and met a senior seaman that was in the habit of inviting the younger seamen to spend time fellowshipping on sundays with him. They would read the bible and discuss it as a way to rejoice in Yahweh’s world. He introduced many young seamen to Yahweh including the man telling the story.

    The next part of the story was what really gets to me though.

    A number of years later one of the young seamen who was now much older decided to get a reunion of as many of the young men that had been part of this gathering together to honor the man who had touched all their lives. He set it up in a large hotel conference room. Approximately 1000 men showed up. When the host got up he told the crowd why he had planned this reunion. He spoke about how every man in the room had been affected by one individual for the positive in their lives. He told them that man was in that very room. Every one was looking around for this person, including the man who did not know he was the guest of honor. When his name was called he was more surprised than anyone in the room.

    See he had done what he did because his faith was something he just had to share. He had not set out to make a name for himself but to just share what Yahweh had put in him.

    When ever I feel like I should be a missionary to some undiscovered country or some great evangelist in order to serve Yahweh, and become disappointed in myself because I’m not, I remember this story. The father has called me where I am , the way I am, to do his work the way he wants it done. As long as I am willing to step forward and say, here I am use me, He will put me where I can be of the best use in HIS plan. This is so much more effective than my own plans could ever be.

    Another image I had described to me was of the simple man who, at the end of days, stood before our maker. With his eyes downcast as he approached the great throne he felt so insignificant amongst the many great people who had come before him. When the Father said to him “Thank you good and faithful servant for your service”. The man was shocked and he said” But father I am nothing compared to these other men. They have done so many great works in your name.” The Father then smiled kindly at this humble man and told him ” Yes my son they have done many things that I have called them to do. You also have done all I called you to do.” The man trembled as he spoke ” But father I have not done anything great in my life,’ Yahweh spoke again kindly to the man ” My son you have done more than you know. You have gone about day by day reflecting me in all sorts of small ways to the world around you. You have affected many souls who are here with you today. Just look behind you at the line of souls . Every one is here, in part, because you showed them MY way. Then those people showed others.” The man slowly turned and looked behind himself there was a line of people stretching farther than he could see.

    We cannot know the effects of what we say and do , for good or for bad, only the Father sees it all. Rather than trying to be special by human standards lets be on our guard to always reflect the Fathers Spirit in every moment as we walk with and talk to others. Maybe our line will be long too. If so those rewards will be greater than anything this world can offer.

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