My family and I watched *almost* every second of March Madness this year, which was a treat because we hadn’t been able to take part in one of our favorite American “holiday seasons” in years! It’s great fun to try and pick winners and see who ends up advancing to each round. After one of this year’s “Cinderella teams,” Loyola Chicago, advanced to the Elite Eight, a reporter asked their star player the following question:
“How does this reality compare to the dream?”
I don’t remember his response, but I immediately jotted down the question because it’s such a good one! I’ve been thinking about my own answer ever since.
As my husband and I began preparing to move to China (the second time around when we quit jobs, stored belongings and called it a “career move”) we dreamed of what it might be like to actually do this thing we felt we’d been called to do. One of our dreams was to leave a legacy for our children and their children by following the Lord in obedience to a far-away place. We wanted them to be able to look back and say “Wow! They really did that! They picked up and moved to China!”
Why do we dream of our kids looking back with respect on the fateful decision we once made? We hope that they, too, will live lives that reflect our Global Christian worldview and live out the belief that we’re blessed to be a blessing to others, especially those who haven’t heard the good news. We dream that our children will share our convictions, and either GO themselves someday, or actively support others who do.
Did the reality of living in China match up with the dream? Idealistically, yes, but practically, no! There were so many challenges in everyday life that I could’ve never fully grasped in the dream until I experienced them in reality. The annual struggle through the winter doldrums proved to be a battle I never could have known to expect. The interpersonal dynamics of team complicated life in ways I never saw coming (and were also a delight beyond imagination!) The transition of a career change from young professional to young stay-at-home-mom shocked me beyond expectation and preparation.
Reality could never compare to the dream. The dream was flat, leaving out the multi-faceted depth of the life we lived when we arrived on the field which was a combination of both the highs and lows (dreams usually take only the highs into account!)
I hope that despite our failings to daily appreciate the life we were privileged to live, that the legacy will still be a good one for our kids. I dream of them telling good stories to their children about their lives in China. I know the not-so-good stuff will probably be told, too, but I pray the good outweighs the bad!
I hope they’ll see the humor in the time we stepped on the public bus we often took home from Saturday soccer practice expecting to get our pick of the seats in the mostly empty bus, and instead found it packed FULL of Chinese grandmas dressed in matching track suits who fussed and fussed over them! I pray they’ll remember the kindness and hospitality in the hearts of the Chinese people, even though they sometimes viewed them as the enemy who wanted to ruin their game of whiffle-ball in the park by interrupting a pitch and demanding a photo op!
Now that we’re back in Texas, I’m not sure how or what to dream. I’ve met too many people on the field who built a dreamhouse and later sold it because God called them to China. I’ve learned through their experiences and my own that our own ambitions don’t always match up with God’s plan. Sometimes, that makes me fearful of dreaming. How do I dream in a way that pleases the Lord? What dreams does He dream for me?
Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
When I notice a dream settling in my heart, I no longer assume it’s automatically what God wants for me. Sometimes I’m not quite sure if HE put it there, or if my own selfish ambition planted it. How can I be sure?! Instead of assuming that Psalm 37:4 promises that I’ll have all I ever dream of having as long as I delight in the Lord, I view it as a call to prayer. I lift up the dreams that I have in my heart and ask God to either bring them to fulfillment if they’re of HIS WILL or to remove them from my heart if they’re not in line with His good plan for my life. And I water that seed with TRUST.
All I know is dreaming is a prayerful venture. The danger of dreaming without the Lord’s leading is that we can set our hearts on something He’s never meant for us to have, and then either become bitter when we don’t get it or turn it into an idol when we do. I may never get to build a dream house, but I CAN build a dream family…every single day! Even though my house looks like a scene from an “I Spy” book instead of a page from “Better Homes and Gardens,” I can choose to live my days in a way that pleases the Lord in my service to my family and community.
How has your reality matched up with your dream? Are you in a phase of life where you’re dreaming of your future and know you’ll one day realize a dream God has placed in your heart? Are you in a looking-back phase, wondering how to dream again? How are you sure your dreams are from God and not your own selfish ambition?