“Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” they say.
But what if you can’t find a way?
Can you relate to this? Sometimes I trample my dreams before they’ve even had a chance to take root. For example, when something epic bubbles up from my heart – a fabulous, joy-sparking dream – I immediately go into logistics mode. How would this work? How can I make this happen? How do I make this dream come true?
And then, nine times out of ten, I realize that I don’t know how. I don’t have the knowledge, the connections, or the resources to make it happen. It feels too hard, too unlikely, too out of reach. I’m overwhelmed, and the dream is crushed under the weight of the feeling of impossibility.
I’m sad to say that’s often where it ends. The dream dissolves into an emaciated wish, a thin, pale shadow of its former glorious self. In 2020, I embraced an important idea, particularly when it comes to big dreams and faith and what God wants to do in my life:
How is not my job.
How many blessings do we miss because we fall into the trap of believing we have to do it all? That it’s all up to us?
Maybe you find yourself in a relationship that has flatlined. You haven’t the faintest idea how to bring it back to life.
Maybe you have come to realize how much you hate your job. But you’re not sure how to position yourself for a better one.
Maybe you feel like you’re in a deep, dark pit. And you have no clue how you’d even begin to climb out.
For twenty-five years, Kim and I had been dreaming about living on a lake. We talked about it on our first date. We’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours talking about it, trying to figure out the most efficient way to make it happen while still doing the work we love and feel called to. We’ve tried on dozens of scenarios in our minds, calculating what was possible and what sacrifices might be required. It was so exhausting and soul-crushing to keep the dream alive. I often yearned for someone from a Harry Potter book to cast a Memory Charm upon me, to obliviate the dream from my memory.
In a surprising turn of events, the dream finally came true. During a global pandemic.
Around the time of the start of the lockdown, in my morning prayer time, I came across the idea that “how” is not my job. I realized that “how” could never be realized until I had fully committed to the “what.”
The “what” starts out fun – everyone loves to imagine crazy preposterous dreams – but it gets scary when you get serious about it. If you decide to own the “what” – landing the dream job, finding Mr. Right, having a baby, starting the business – things get real. You move the dream into that vulnerable nook in your heart that opens you to the pain of it not coming true.
Stopping after determining we don’t know the how is a handy way to cut the dream off at the knees, ending it on our terms. Better to tell ourselves it was never meant to be at the outset than be crushed by heartbreaking disappointment later.
Well, at the beginning of the lockdown, I led our family to begin a routine that felt utterly preposterous. We started a dinnertime prayer thanking God in advance for “the lake home you’re preparing for us.” Keep in mind that I had already calculated a worst-case scenario in which we might be bankrupt by November and determined that ending the year with a profit of $1 would be an enormous underdog victory.
We persisted with every meal. Sometimes, after a particularly defeating day, I’d “forget” to include it in the prayer. And on those days, without fail, one of my children would add on, “thankyouforthelakehomeyou’repreparingforus.” I’m proud of how they helped carry us on those days.
Meanwhile, I started keeping a special journal. Starting in May, I filled a page with this affirmation: “I Jason Kotecki will own a dream home on the lake.” I wrote that fifteen times a day, every single day, all year long, sometimes dead-tired right before bed. I decided I was going to keep doing it until we got that dream house or until the day I died, whichever came first.
I cannot tell you how foolish it all seemed most days. I often felt like an idiot wasting my time. But each time we said the prayer or I wrote the affirmation, I reminded myself:
How is not my job.
Just because I couldn’t find (or force) a way didn’t mean that there wasn’t one.
We were given arrows to follow, one at a time. Sometimes one of those arrows felt like it was spoiling the ending. We’d be certain we finally knew the how, but then there’d be another turn that blew those certainties to smithereens.
In retrospect, every arrow served a purpose, but following them was hard.
Like the day we learned that the sellers of the house we were sure was the One accepted someone else’s offer over ours. On that night, we started right into the dinnertime prayer, which was such a habit by then. “Thank you for the lake home you’re preparing for us.”
We had to choke back tears to finish the prayer that night.
The winding, preposterous roller coaster tale of how everything led to us moving into our dream house the following January could probably be its own book. It would include this plot twist: the house we thought was the One – the one we’d lost out on (twice!) – did end up actually being the One.
I hesitated to share any of this because I don’t want it to come off as some sort of magic trick. Or paint God as a cosmic vending machine. I mean, I have prayed for this home for over two decades, so this isn’t exactly Amazon Prime.
But I do believe that God does plant certain dreams in our hearts, and if we are brave enough to claim them, to speak them out loud, he will help us realize them, somehow. (Although not always in the way we expected.)
I believe that real faith is realizing we can’t do everything ourselves, that we were never meant to, and that there is someone who wants to help.
And I know firsthand the truth that just because you can’t find a way doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
Through this process of writing daily affirmations and praying this audacious prayer when it seemed most unlikely to ever come true, I realized that what God was doing in me was more important than how the events unfolded. Indeed, my favorite day of saying our prayer – with a slight modification – was before the first dinner we shared in our new house on the shores of Lake Michigan:
“Thank you for the lake home you prepared US for.”