You know how when somebody pokes at a sore spot on your body, your first instinct is to punch them, even if you don’t really want to? That’s why I wanted to punch Mark Batterson for writing his book, The Circle Maker.
Now, like I said, I don’t really want to punch Mark Batterson. He’s a great writer and the book is phenomenal. Unfortunately, the book also prodded a finger in an open wound. Many times, I would feel my eyes glaze over, the muscles in my arm grow weak, my hand would turn and the book would fall into my lap as heavy as my heart. I’d stare at the blank TV opposite the couch, not really looking at it, completely sapped of all will, except for the desire to crawl into bed and close my eyes forever.
The Circle Maker is about praying through your God-given dreams. But as I closed the book with a darkened mind, I whispered to the empty house, “What dreams?”
I found this picture a few weeks ago and I absolutely love it.
I hated that question when I was in high school, college, and my recent trip into ministry training. “What are you going to do with what you’re learning?” It’s a valid question, you need to be going somewhere or you’re just wasting time and money. The problem is, this was the passionate answer I always had in my head: “I don’t (bleep)ing know!”
Then, the question would go bigger, like with Mark Batterson’s book. “What are you dreams, your callings, your far-gazing desires?” My answer was the same: I don’t know. “Well, search yourself, look deep, what do you want to do?” But then, I’d run into the problem of fantasies versus dreams.
Fantasies are nothing and they never will be anything. Whims made up by a mind that is disinterested in reality. Dreams, on the other hand, are more like targets–you aim for them with every intention of hitting them. Dreams come true, fantasies do not. Sure, I had things I wanted to do with my life–write this book, write that book, start this website, work this job, but there are no plans, no steps in the ladder, no belief that it would ever happen outside of my head.
A fantasy is a dream without hope.
The worst part came when I read the stories of people’s passions, the lives driven by powerful goals and dreams. Once more, I put the book down, stared at the coffee table, and asked, “Have I ever truly lived?”
What did I do in high school? Nothing. What did I do in college? Nothing. I passed through my schooling with high grades, but that’s all I had to show for it: a few measly letters on a piece of paper. I have drifted from one milestone to the next without ever really living in them. My ministry training was the first thing I truly felt God calling me to do, and I drifted through that, too.
God only made things worse (he does that). I began to picture an endless wilderness of meadows, mountains, forests, and rivers, and God said, “Have at.” That would have overjoyed some people, but it terrified me. It was too big! Too much! I don’t know what to do with it! And God said, “I’ve given you freedom. What do you want to do?”
I replied, “I don’t know. What are my options?”
God said, “I’m not going to give you any. I’m asking what you want to do.”
I came back with, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
God said, “I didn’t ask what you could do. I asked what you want to do.”
I said, “God, I don’t know what you want!”
And he replied, “I want you to dream.”
But I didn’t know how. All my life, I’ve thrived on boundaries. I felt safe within walls. But now the walls have fallen and I’m standing in the wilderness without a map or a clue. I don’t know where to go because I have no destination. And I don’t know how to do anything. Ironically, that is God’s entire point.
God wants to reveal me to myself, to show me the things he’s planted there, to get me to chase after something, even if I fail horribly. He wants me to dream. It’s a terrifying process for me because I’ve never learned how, and I’m still not positive I have it down. I keep praying for direction and guidance, but I’ve been using it as a crutch so I never have to walk on my own two feet.
And then, God showed me one last thing: my escapism. One of the reasons I’m a writer is because I learned to fantasize as a form of escapism and isolation. I learned very young how to be alone with nothing but daydreams for companions. I’d play some music and just let myself disappear. It became a coping mechanism called dissociation. When I’m upset, afraid, or overwhelmed, I retreat into fantasy–even if it’s a realistic setting, my brain plays out a script that I’ve written because in this fantasy, I have control.
But this time, when I put on the headphones, I felt God gently say, “Running away again?” These dreams aren’t going to come to me. I have to chase them. It’s not easy; it’s not supposed to be. But I have to deal with reality and spit in its face.
Then, I started thinking of those fantasies again–write this, do that, go there…and I thought…what if there was hope behind them? What if I acted like they could come true? What if I pursued them? Would they be possible to attain through God? The more I thought about it, the more I realized the answer was yes. I didn’t desire things that could never exist, I simply thought they were too big for me. And God said, “They ARE too big for you. Go after them!”
So here are a few of them that I can think of right now:
- I want to pick up my failed book again. it’s called “Rise.” In the top-left corner of my blog, you can see a link to it. The publishing experience was problematic from the very beginning, and as a result, the book failed. However, there was a thrill to the ride, a roller-coaster excitement of chasing a dream. I want to fix the book’s problems, advertise better, and try publishing again once my contract with this publisher is up.
- I want to write a Christian urban fantasy series. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Did I mention it’s also super-hero-esque? A bizarre combination, but that’s why I want to do it: do something new, push a few uncomfortable boundaries. I’ll get flak from Christians and non-Christians alike, but I want to write about Christians as we really are: human, flawed, and real. And I don’t just want to have a message, but write a real, powerful story that can even be enjoyed on a secular level.
- I want to make an animated movie about a young woman who climbs a mountain to kill a demon that is terrorizing her people while the rest of her village cowers in fear. It’s about the existence of real, ultimate evil, and the high cost of facing it. I don’t know how to do animated movies and I certainly don’t have the money for it. But hey, it’s a dream.
- I want to be braver. But bravery is simply the decision not to let fear decide your course. That’s why in 2013, my goals are to call people when I’d rather text, contact people I don’t know, speak the truth and deal with the consequences, pitch my books without being ashamed that they sound silly (see above!) and more. I need the courage to fail spectacularly.
- I want real fellowship, and it starts with me seeking it. I need to bolster friendships, take better interest in people, and challenge them even if it’s uncomfortable to either of us. I don’t want to hurt people or push unnecessarily, but I’m tired of single-level friendships.
Even writing these is thrilling and frightening. I mean, I have no idea how I’m going to even start half of these! That was the point of Mark Batterson’s book. Life-changing dreams are always too lofty for us. They have to be, or God will not work. If we can do it, how does he get any credit or glory? God never told me to go alone, he just told me to go. That’s why I know I can do this. That’s what pushes me forward.
That’s when fantasies become dreams: when Hope appears.