Big dreams don’t come true the way you think.
At least not the way the movies have taught us. You know, with magic wands and pixie dust and a few clicks of your ruby slippers.
The best ones come little by little, over a long period of time, and often appear like they’ll never come true at all.
You may recall me mentioning a few weeks ago that we were outbid in our effort to buy our dream home. In a near miraculous turn of events, that home is now…ours! What the what?!? In January, our family of five will be moving to Sheboygan, the Malibu of the Midwest and official Bratwurst Capital of the World.
There are a dozen reasons why it was time for us to leave Madison, our home of twenty years, but at the top of the list was buying our dream house on a lake. Little did I know when I birthed this dream several decades ago, the lake would turn out to be one of the Greats, known as Michigan.
Perhaps I will someday share in greater detail all the twists and turns that transpired – it’s a pretty remarkable story – but for now, I just want to share one lesson. Interestingly, it can be summed up by a sweatshirt I saw in a store this week. It was emblazoned with the phrase, “Never forget I am ALWAYS in control.”
And the lesson is: No, you aren’t.
And neither am I.
Kim and I are initiators; we like to think of ourselves as self-reliant. We have a hard time owing people and are happy to climb the tree ourselves and get our own damn apples, thank you very much. This is a good trait to have when you encounter closed doors. Instead of accepting defeat, you look for another door, or a window that might have been left unlocked, or a dog door you might be able to squeeze through if hadn’t just eaten that whole bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. But self-reliance is also a way of feeling in control and avoiding dependency.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2020, the year everything went sideways, is that dependency is the goal, not a weakness, at least from God’s perspective.
It’s a lesson I should have learned sooner than I did. Me forcing things has never worked. Not once. It doesn’t matter how hard I shake the tree.
Honestly, this year probably would have destroyed twenty-five-year old me. What saved me, and ushered in a Corona blessing of all Corona blessings, was my relationship with God. Morning after morning, day after day, I returned to Him out of pure necessity, because the current events were just too much. I felt ashamed that I had to keep coming back; that I wasn’t strong enough to go a few days without His assurances. After all, that had been my modus operandi for years: Spend a little time with him, get fired up, run off to change the world all by myself, fail miserably, lose my way, get discouraged, yell at the sky, and return at last for another pep talk and reminder of who’s really in charge.
I am a slow learner.
Without fail, the times I’ve handed over the steering wheel to a superior storyteller, the One who knows me best, is when things get good and open doors appear out of nowhere.
I have journal entries about this dream house dated from 1999, complete with pencil-drawn floor plans and notes about tall pine trees. They seemed like pure fantasy back in 2008, when we were eight years into our dumpy apartment, with barely any perceptible progress having been made. There were many times I wished I could have my memory modified so I’d forget about my dream completely because it seemed too foolish, too impossible, too big.
But I never once got the sense that God wanted me to give it up. On the contrary, I always sensed Him telling me to be patient and trust in Him. Which is a hard thing. Surely there must be a tree I could shake somewhere to hurry this along. (Believe me, I tried.)
It turns out I had inadvertently dreamed myself into dependency.
The dream was simply too big to accomplish on my own. I realize now that my temptations to minimize it or abandon it altogether was merely an attempt to maintain some sense of control.
This dream was an apple tree too big for me to shake.
As this year unfolded, I could sense supernatural things were happening. Kim and I never got a clear glimpse of the entire picture. Instead, we were given arrows. And so we followed them. One by one, even when they felt like they were leading to dead ends. (I see now that I can trace the arrows back a very long time.)
The side of me that wants some measure of credit would like to exclaim, I put good into the world and good came back! I was patient! I was persistent! I was wise with my money!
I may have been all of those things, but those things weren’t enough. God orchestrated this remarkable turn of events in the middle of a pandemic – during which there was a time I thought we might lose everything – to prove to me that not only am I not enough, but that I don’t need to be.
You can know of a person without really knowing them. Awareness of God is not the same as a relationship with Him. It takes time, and it can get messy. But the mess is where the magic is. Sometimes you have to get into the mud before you can finally see clearly. This blessing is the fruit of two decades worth of building a relationship with this mysterious God, trying to do what He says, but mostly just trying to let Him change me.
He’s not done with this fixer-upper, that’s for sure. But He is good, faithful, ever-present, and patient, which I am especially grateful for because of how many times I questioned all of those qualities.
Maybe you have a dream in your heart that’s yet to come true. Maybe it feels like a lost cause, a foolish wish from an unrealistic dreamer. I once heard the saying “There are no unrealistic dreams, only unrealistic timelines.” There could be some truth to that.
I wonder, are you trying to force it? Are you trying to make it come true all by yourself? Before giving it up, it might be worth giving it over to the One who knows the reason you have that dream in the first place, and also knows the best version of that dream for you. If you have dreamed yourself into dependency, you are exactly where you need to be.
Turn it over to the Master Storyteller and follow the arrows.
And remember, providence doesn’t usually come all at once in bunches. More often it arrives just in time, apple by apple.