This afternoon, in an effort to avoid the bills that are taking over my counter, the emails that are begging for a response, and the laundry that is multiplying, I rummaged through a tattered box of old photos and letters from my childhood. I discovered lots of things, including a poem I had written when I was 15 years old. It seems that back in 1975, though I was pretty young and fairly naïve, I knew some things.
"Dreams are crushed
by some poor fool
who has forgotten his own."
I don't remember what my dreams were when I was 15 except to be "other" than I was. Someone prettier. Thinner. Smarter. Happier. More popular. Someone confident. Someone else.
Some things haven't changed. I still find (much too often) that I want to be someone "other" than I am. And I still know deep within that having dreams for one's life is both vitally important and ruthlessly opposed.
The sorrow encountered in most people's lives can suck the dreaming right out of them. But we have to hold on to our dreams! If we have forgotten them, we must ask God to remind us what they were and if we've never had any, we need to ask God to awaken us to the dreams he has planted in our hearts. Our desires are as vital to our life as breathing. Dreams, hopes, and desires keep us moving, and they help us retain the truth of our own heart. Our desires matter. Our hearts matter. You see, it is there that God speaks to us.
It's too easy, as we grow older and experience the dulling effect of disappointment, to become a cynical woman, a woman who has lost hope. Yes, it's true that more people are hit by lightning than win the lottery. Millions of people would love to be a movie star, but few become one. Only one person wins the gold medal in an Olympic event. Only a handful of elite athletes make it into the competition in the first place, and there is still a glass ceiling in the workplace, though both men and women have been chipping away at it for decades. The world can be a dark place. This is not the home our hearts were created for. Eden was a long, long, time ago, and remains much further away than galaxies.
And yet. And still. God calls us to awaken to our deep hearts and to love him. The invitation is to live fully this life we have been given and to enjoy the gift of it. We're urged in Scripture not to bury gifts from God in order to protect them from harm, but to invest them. Discover them. Risk developing them. But of course, a baby comes into this world a precious and wondrous creation. This tiny person is meant to develop. Learn. Explore. Become. And that process is not meant to stop. Ever. We are meant to continually develop as well. Learn. Explore. Become. Risk! As God's daughters, safe in his love, we can courageously awaken to the desires of our hearts and pursue them.
So what are you dreaming for these days? Do you have any dreams? If you don't, you are in good company. On any given Tuesday, most of us don't have dreams for ourselves. Perhaps the highest we aim for is to get out of work on time. Fit back into the jeans. Have a quiet moment to ourselves before we slip into bed only to wake and begin again. Sometimes, our lives are so filled with heartache and loss that merely breathing is a grand accomplishment, and dreaming is left by the side of the road miles away.
But not always. Seasons change. Seasons pass. Sorrow may last for a night (or for years), but joy comes in the morning. We are not meant to sleepwalk through our life, but to live it. We want to be women who live our lives on purpose, seizing the gift that it is and moving continually toward the heart of God and all he intends for us on this side of eternity. We must ask for God's help to awaken us (or re-awaken us) to the dreams and desires he has planted in our hearts and to give us the courage to move towards them—with him! Though moving in the direction of our dreams and desires is a great good, they aren't meant to become our demands. A dream isn't our "god," nor is attaining it. Our dreams are gifts to us from our Creator meant to stir us to move towards him in holy, aching, longing surrender. The surrender part is only to Jesus, by the way, and not to cynics who tell us our dreams are impossible. We surrender our desires to our God who then gives them back to us changed and clarified.
What do you want? What do you want to offer? How high would you like to reach? What barriers do you want to break down? What justice do you long to see brought? What goal would you love to attain? Think on it for a while. Ask God what his dreams are for you. He has them. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
The world around you needs you to engage all that you are and offer it. Develop. Grow. Move. Become more you. You are you for a reason. You were born the time you were because this is the generation that needs you. The kingdom of God cannot afford for us to be women who settle or who sleepwalk. Yes, it's hard. We are not living in friendly terrain. We live in a world that is under the influence of the enemy, but he is not over us. He is not over us if we will take our stand against him and the world's strong current and say "Yes!" to God.
Say "yes" to the dreams he has placed in our hearts. Say "yes" to his plans and purposes. Say "yes" to goodness and life and joy and strength and faith and courage, and simply go ahead and risk pressing on as we are urged to do.
What are you dreaming for these days? Ponder the question and write down the answer. Share your answer with a trusted friend. And then ask the next one. What can I do today, this week, and this year to move myself towards them? Then go ahead and do it. Because your dreams were given to you for a reason. And only by dreaming can you have a dream come true.
Stasi Eldredge is the author of Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You. She is coauthor with her husband, John, of the bestselling women's spirituality classic, Captivating and Love and War. A teacher and conference speaker, Stasi leads Ransomed Heart, a women's ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God. Stasi lives with her family in Colorado.