The American Dream is the ideal by which equal opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. In essence, the American dream is that you can be anything and anyone you want to be as long as you take risks, work hard and make great achievements. We've likely heard this sentiment ingrained into our minds as young students, but it's simplified into, "You can be anything you want to be!" Our dreams start brewing early with the goals of being doctors, firefighters, artists, athletes, or actors! We picture our lives in the future with family and friends doing exactly what we'd imagined. We choose extracurricular activities that align, we do our best in school, we build relationships, and look forward to the future with hopes of our dreams coming true.
Many of us learn along the way that our dreams aren't as accessible as we thought they'd be. Some of us find ourselves lacking the financial resources, caught in the middle of unforeseen circumstances, or realizing the obstacles that lay ahead of us. Some of us even realize that our dreams have changed or that the dream didn't really fit our personality or gifting. When I was in high school I was certain I wanted to be a pharmacist. I wanted to work in medicine without having to work in a hospital or doctor's office. I had a weak stomach with surgical procedures, so I decided I wanted to work at a pharmacy instead. When I began my undergraduate program, however, I struggled in math and science classes. I fought tooth and nail to get through those classes only to realize the road to pharmacy school was even more math and science classes. So after much counsel and consideration, acknowledging that it just wasn't my strength, I decided to let that dream die.
The truth is, we will let a lot of our dreams die. Some of us may never get the degree we worked for, the career we pined after, the house and family we dreamed up, or the life we hoped for. The temptation may be to turn inward and blame ourselves for not doing enough, not trying enough, not taking enough risks. After all, that's what it takes to pursue the American dream, and culture enhances this "If you can dream it, you can do it," mentality. The world may encourage us to keep striving and keep fighting, no matter the cost. But the gospel changes everything about the way we view our dreams. The Christian life is a call to lay aside anything that hinders us from faithfulness and obedience to the Lord and sometimes that means our dreams. And yet this doesn't leave us with our heads hanging low. We can lay our dreams aside with confidence, entrusting them to the One who sees and knows all, and believing that God is preparing a way for us to accomplish something more.
There is wisdom in acknowledging that our dreams and plans aren't always aligned with God's dreams and plans for us. Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many plans are in a man's heart, but the Lord's decree will prevail." Because we can't see what's ahead, we dream a lot! We make many plans. We picture our lives from start to finish. And along the way, while our plans and dreams can dissipate or fall to the side, God's never will. His plans and purposes for our lives will always prevail. He chooses perfectly which dreams will flourish and which will fade. He does so in accordance with His grand and glorious will that not only serves our good but serves the good of God's people and the glory of God's name. Therefore, when our plans and dreams aren't in accordance with His, it is grace that God helps us to relinquish them. In doing so, He is preparing our hands to receive far greater than we could've planned or dreamed up in our own minds.
Dreaming, for Christians can be an exercise of faith in many ways by looking to what's to come with hope even when it's unknown. Just because all dreams don't come to be, doesn't mean we should stop dreaming! Instead, it should transform the way we dream - with an expectation of how God will shape and change our plans along the way, with eyes glued to God's Word to test and approve our hearts, with the utmost desire to follow Jesus with every ounce of our being, and with open hands, asking the Lord to fill them only with what will serve His greater and glorious purposes.
Recommended Resource on this topic: A Holy Pursuit by Dianne Jago