On Releasing Dreams but Not Giving Up: Chronicles on the Premise of Dying to Live

I have always been a dreamer. Big time. A Martin Luther King, “I have a dream,” kind of dreamer. There’s never been any other way for me. And I’ve faced enough struggle, enough brokenness, enough despair to believe that this is inherent in me no matter what. I’ll never lose my “But, I see something better” side, even if I wanted to. So, let me just tell you. For me to talk about letting go of your dreams, well that’s monumental. In many ways, I have always been chasing one dream or another, and I’ve held even bigger dreams in my heart – dreams that are way, way, way over my head. I’ve persevered through a lot just to keep reaching towards those dreams. But there is something I haven’t done: mentally push pause on them all. Slow it down on the inside and stop dreaming up a better world and a happier life.

I haven’t stopped running to just be content with what I have. I haven’t stopped running to face what I don’t have. I haven’t stopped running. Period.

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It’s a bit of a curse to be an all or nothing person like me. How do you find balance? Especially when you are someone who thrives on balance and harmony, and pretty much falls apart like an undercooked cookie when life is a battle between 110% effort, or 0%. I am desperate for the scales to even out. But perfectionists like me usually have two choices: always be perfect and keep delivering the best, or break down and do nothing because you don’t have the energy to do it. Some people are far more able than me to keep going in their perfectionism. I’m a bit on the fine side: fine lines, fine breaking points, fine skin. I don’t believe that any of that is bad, it’s simply the way I am. I’m sensitive to my stressors and surroundings and I need a lot of sleep, and a lot of time alone to refresh. I’m not interested in comparisons here, all I know is my own ridiculously gentle, patiently quiet, and passionately persistent heart has often sputtered and failed in the loud, aggressive, opportunistic culture.

I simply wasn’t cut out for that type of environment. I frequently daydream about long days working seed into soil, digging up fresh ground, growing my own sustenance, watching over pastures (does anyone else want to be a shepherd boy, or is that just me? …*laughing nervously*). I long to wear down this body thin to build it strong, and empty this body daily to allow my mind to still, slow, and clear. For me, the longer I stay indoors, the longer I neglect my physical need to work, expend, and connect, and the longer I let my mind run and run and run, the more desperate and weary I get. I can “rest” all I want, but if I don’t take breaks from all my mental cardio, I won’t find the energy I’m looking for.

For me, I can swap physical cardio for mental cardio. Labor for labor. That’s the only way I’ve found I can really give my mind a rest. Hopefully I will learn other ways, but for now, I know that this is a good place to start. But more than that, I must lay all my endless dreaming in Jesus’ hands. I must learn to come to Him with each new dream, and hand it over, knowing that it’s not lost there, only being kept safe. At the right time, He may choose to pick up any one of those dreams and hand it back over, and I want to be ready when He does.

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I always thought that chasing my God-given dreams was the right thing to do: that making it to this place in my mind’s eye, this place that I believe God has actually called me to, was my number one goal and priority. But when that pursuit became greater than Him, it became an idol. And when we make idols, God tears them down. The vision of the future was more important than anything else. So, He let me break, and He broke with me, until I couldn’t keep running, couldn’t even keep walking. Until all I could do was fall to the ground and rest there in Him. And that’s where I am: resting and learning to rest and learning to be still. Learning to stop running.

I don’t believe in giving up, but I do believe in giving over.

Giving every idol – every single thing we hold dear to our hearts or tightly with our fists – over to God because He’s the one who determines our steps, and He’s the one with the holy plans and the highest knowledge and the greatest love. Like Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain. His promised son: a miracle delivered by God after decades of waiting – the one thing that had potential to stand higher than God in Abraham’s heart. But Abraham was faithful. He didn’t let Isaac, the son borne out of God’s own promise, to become greater than God Himself.

Maybe even when God has given us a dream, given us a promise, we must die to it.

We must let it go, hand it back over to Him, make sure that it doesn’t become an idol in our heart. Because God wants to know that our dreams will never be our gods, but that we will always return to Him, our first love. Maybe all along, we were meant to carry those dreams to give them up – give them up for today, for right now: love for the One inside of us and the ones in front of us. Maybe instead of filling our time chasing dreams or visions for the future, we should be serving, loving, thanking, praying…today. We still have those dreams in our hearts, we don’t let them wither away or die, but instead, we die to them. Chances are, they are even promises from God (He gave us our dreams and desires in the first place), and maybe they are even already fulfilled promises –– but even still, we must pray always for His will to be done. And in the meantime, we don’t lose sight of our greatest purpose: to daily love God and love others.

On this path, you can bet He’ll be leading you to your promised land, but you may not see it until you arrive.