If there is one thing that describes my generation (20-30 year olds), it is definitely that we advocate doing what you love. We go against traditional desk jobs in order to pursue what we love. It is not uncommon for us to not stay at a job very long because we don’t feel “satisfied” and that we should be doing something “greater.”
We are dreamers.
Part of me loves the dreaming part. But another part of me questions when dreaming becomes unhealthy.
Recently, I watched the movie Inside Llewyn Davis again. It is a tragically comical look at a musician in Greenwich Village in the 60’s, right before Bob Dylan hit the scene. In this film, we see a man, Llewyn Davis, who dreams of becoming a well-known folk musician. The struggle in the film is trying to like Llewyn Davis. He dances a line between likable and unlikable. Part of you roots for him and another part of you scolds him.
The thing that I noticed the most was that Davis dreamed so much of what could be that he completely missed what already was. Do we miss what is already happening because we spend most of our lives dreaming of what could be?
As Christians, we can be the worst at this. We say things like, “What does Jesus want you to do with your life?” or “What do you think God is telling you?” or “Where do you feel the Spirit leading you?” (that’s right — we go all out trinity in answering life-questions)
The saddest part of Inside Llewyn Davis is seeing a man fight for what he loved but realizing that it would never take him far in life. I’ve had this realization several times. I could never make it far as a musician. I could never make it far as an actor. Heck…I might not even make it far as a pastor.
So how do we respond to when all of our dreams come crashing down? How do we respond when we realize that our dream is simply just that: a dream…a pipe dream at best? Do we continue fighting for something that won’t ever come true? Doesn’t that take away from living the life we have right now?
I think about Jesus a lot in these situations. Christ said that He came so that we could have life abundantly. Many health and wealth preachers have taught this passage in the direction of “God will give you great health and great wealth” (I mean, obviously…what else would health and wealth preachers teach?). But if my dream doesn’t come true, does that mean that Christ hasn’t given me life abundantly?
Living life to the fullest sometimes means sacrificing dreams.
This is a difficult concept, especially in our generation. But sometimes in sacrificing dreams, we can truly live life abundantly. I’m not saying it is wrong to dream. We should dream. We should aspire. We should dare to live a life that brings God pleasure.
But how many of our dreams are selfish attempts at making us happy? And, is happiness the only thing we should strive to attain in this life?
One of my dreams is to plant a church. I have slowly, but surely, come to the conclusion that I am willing to sacrifice that dream if it begins to interfere with how I am living currently. If I begin only focusing on that instead of the lives around me. If I begin hating where I am because I long to be somewhere else. If I begin coming up with a strategic plan for how I’ll do things differently because of how angry I am with what is happening around me. I am willing to sacrifice that dream if it begins negatively affecting my life.
Are you willing to sacrifice your dream for that? I think we must be willing to say, “This dream is destroying people around me. The constant longing for something greater is causing me to live a life less than abundant right now.” It’s hard to say those things because, once again, we are dreamers. We fight for our dreams and say we will not settle for anything less than those dreams. In the pursuit of those dreams, however, we settle for something less in how we are living life in the now.
Dreams can quickly become a means of escapism. That’s when they get dangerous. That’s when they evolve into something deadly. That’s when we must be willing to say, “I’m done.”
One of my favorite scenes from Love Actually is the scene when Andrew Lincoln’s character confesses his love for Kiera Knightley’s character. It’s this beautiful scene where he confesses everything he has been feeling through a series of comments on poster board. But at the end of the scene, the dream that he had always longed to come true, he mutters, “that’s enough.” I love that. He knew that his dream would destroy friends in love.
Is this notion of doing what we love something that might destroy the lives of those around us? I’m not saying that we sacrifice things purely for the sake of others. But I do think that we cannot be selfish and cover up things with, “I feel like God is telling me to do this…” when God is simply telling us to bring honor to Him…wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.
What do you think? How have you seen dreams ruin your life or the life of those around you? When is the best time to sacrifice dreams? Should we sacrifice dreams? Why do Christians feel the need to constantly ask the question, “What does God want me to do with my life?” Let me know in the comments below.
4 thoughts on “Doing What You Love”
I definitely agree that we place to much weight in “our calling”. This is the exact place that my wife and I are in right now. We both just graduated from college. I am working as an unpaid intern at a church (I do get paid but by raising support) and she is a nanny for a family member. Both of us have huge dreams. I want to go back to seminary and then pastor or start a church and my wife dreams of a family and also a career in serving those on the margarine of society (she is unsure of the best way to pursue this at the moment). We both believe that we can do huge things for the kingdom together. However, these dreams keep us from living life now. We keep reminding each other that we need to live in the now and point to God in our current life situation. If we are always living for what is next then we may never get to the actual “living” part. Instead, we will always be waiting… I think this is a huge problem with our generation. Thanks for the post!
Thanks, man! I was in the unpaid intern stage for a while — I did one while in school and then did a year-long one after school — so that can be a tough place to be. I agree with you — we will never actually live if we always wait for what is next! Thanks for your thoughts man. Appreciate you adding to the conversation.
“The thing that I noticed the most was that Davis dreamed so much of what could be that he completely missed what already was. Do we miss what is already happening because we spend most of our lives dreaming of what could be?”
This is a solid reality check. Reminds me of one of my favorite Jon Acuff posts: http://stuffchristianslike.net/2009/08/19/asking-god-geography-questions/
I’d venture to say that one of the reasons Christians are so caught up in “what does God want me to do with my life” is because, generally, we put the pressure on each other to do “great” things for God and have this idea that God has one specific thing for each person to do. And obviously, if you don’t figure that out, you’re sinning by not doing what God wants you to. No one wants to be that person.
And perhaps God does have specific things for us to do. But to seek after that is, I believe, to completely miss the point of the Gospel and the point of life. I think we need to refine our perspectives of who we are, how we relate to God, and how we join in his work. If, instead of spending time thinking and strategizing about what we can do for God, we spend that time seeking Him, learning to know his voice and just being with him (as Acuff advocates), we will be lead into what he wants us specifically to be doing. And that leading – which comes out of an established, solid relationship with God rather than our striving to live up to expectations of certain Christian cultures – is what will either work out our dreams or turn us in the direction of new and different dreams.
Dreaming is good. And having specific dreams is not bad. But they must be second to knowing God and living faithfully as he has already instructed (which is focused more generally on our character and everyday relationships than it is on discovering and carrying out a specific task/calling). Like you said, sometimes “God is simply telling us to bring honor to Him…wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.” That’s how we keep our dreams from ruining us or those around us. And it’s what gives us the freedom to be confident that we are living our life as God intended whether we are starting up a non-profit ministry, moving to a developing country, or continuing to work the same job we’ve had for the past 10 years in the same small town we grew up in.
(side note: found you just last week via your article on Relevant – also solid. I appreciate your writings, as well as this chance to work through/discuss this topic a little – it’s been on my mind often recently.)
I’ve read some of Acuff’s thoughts on this idea. Specifically in “Quitter,” he addresses a lot of these beliefs. I agree with you…dreaming is good. The trick is in realizing that a dream can also be working at the same job you’ve had for the past 10 years in the same small town you grew up in. Because to a generation of “dreamers,” that sounds like death. But it doesn’t have to be. And I think we do a disservice to those who do dream about and love doing those things. Thanks for the thoughts! And for the encouragement from my Relevant post!