I can only ever remember wanting to be one thing as a little girl. Some children had been told by their parents that they would grow up to become doctors and surgeons, and so they spent their playtimes checking the health of their teddy bears with colorful stethoscopes, or dismembering Barbie to see whether or not they had the skills to put her back together. Others turned recess into an opportunity to play ‘house’, or donned tiaras hoping to find their Prince Charming.
Not me, though. I was never impressed with the coveted doctor’s bag with the plastic scalpel. All I ever wanted to be was a dancer.
Of course, this dream didn’t just materialize out of nowhere. It was borne from a cassette recording in which a pastor would stop in the middle of his sermon to prophesy about the little girl sitting on a woman’s lap. He told her parents that they were blessed that God entrusted her to them, that she would be a light to the nations, and that she would have dancing feet.
That little girl was me. From the moment I first heard those words, ‘dancing feet’ became the defining statement for my life. There wasn’t a song that came on that didn’t immediately cause me to start to shuffle and eventually lead to full-on choreography. God had said that I would have dancing feet, and so dancing was what I would do, whether I always got all the moves right or not. In some naive way, I understood the power of a vision, and I knew that if God said I had the ability to be a dancer, then dance was exactly what I should be doing.
Twenty-three years later, I am only a little disappointed that I am not a dancer. I still cannot keep still when I hear a good rhythm, but I understand now that my call to dancing feet was more about a heart of worship than actually becoming a fully-fledged dancer. I also recognize that I have the hand to eye coordination of a bat, so professional dancing is out of the question either way. But most importantly I realize now that that childhood pursuit of the identity and purpose God had given me then is one that is lacking amongst us as believers today.
I wouldn’t say I am dissatisfied with my life or how it turned out. It definitely doesn’t look like I thought it would when I was younger, but I am actually doing today many of the things that I always hoped to. However there is a part of me that knows that I was meant for more; that I have allowed the words and opinions of others – and the demons in my own head – to keep me from truly living the full life I know I was called to. Somewhere in my life, I let people other than Jesus do the navigating when it came to my ultimate destination.
Seven-year-old Eudora might not have been the greatest dancer, but she had the heart of one. She was loud and free-spirited and talkative and inquisitive. She was an explorer who could never stay in one place for very long, was always out with friends, and sought out adventure at every turn. If there was a tree, she would climb it, if there was a song she would sing it, and her heart was full of love and compassion for those around her.
Somewhere in the course of her life, her siblings began to tell her that she talked too much, and nothing she had to say was of any relevance. Her father began to tell her that she liked friends too much and that it wasn’t right for a young lady to always be out and about. A flat note in front of a crowd at church became proof that she wasn’t as good of a singer as she thought she was. And betrayal and heartache told her that her love for people was not worth it, as it would seldom be reciprocated.
What was once a young, vibrant, adventure-loving and joyful little girl soon turned into an insecure, timid, fearful and lonely young woman. My identity became more about who others said I was or should be, than who God created me to be.
It’s no coincidence that what happens to our identity over the course of our lives if we are not mindful is exactly what happens to our dreams. The things that once lit roaring flames of passion in our hearts become dying embers quenched by the so-called realities of life. Your parents tell you that art is not a career you can make a living off of. That voice in your head won’t stop telling you just how unqualified you are for that position. Your teachers point out that your grades won’t get you very far in your entrepreneurship endeavors. Your friends remind you that you’re not as beautiful as her, or as impressive as him, and so you trade the dreams that once defined you and your pursuits for lesser, more ‘realistic’ versions – or you give up on them altogether. What’s the point in pursuing a dream that no one else sees as a reality? What’s it worth fighting for worth that only you can see? That is if you haven’t lost sight of it altogether.
So we give up on our dreams. We tell ourselves that we are putting them on the back burner for a while, exploring all our options, but really we are defeated by others’ perceptions of us even before the battle has begun. We opt for the dreams and visions that others have for us – dreams and visions that might be great, but still do not set our souls on fire, or have us feeling like we are yielding the kind of fruit the world needs from us. We settle for a smaller version of our dreams – the ones that seem attainable and that keep us from having to venture too far out of our comfort zones. And in the process we live outside God’s dream for us: to partner with Him in creating the kind of life for ourselves that He created us to live.
If you are not careful you will spend your entire life living out the dreams of others without ever even taking a stab at your own – and what a shame that would be. What a shame it would be if when you arrived at the pearly gates, and God asked you what you did with everything He had deposited in you – with all the gifts He had given you to live out all the dreams He had placed on your heart – and you had nothing to show for it. Not only would you have done yourself a disservice, but you would have cheated the world of everything that only you could bring to it.
Luckily for you, this is where the bad news ends. If you are reading this, it means you are still alive, and your story is not over. The past and the choices you made – whether they were yours or another’s – cannot be unwritten. There are many consequences of past actions you may have to live with for a time to come, and this is not a call for you to quit your job and go join the circus. But focus on the good news: the rest of your life is ahead of you. There is no expiration date on the dreams God has given you. Joseph waited 13 years for his dreams to become reality, and because a year is only but a moment to God, he can turn your dreams into reality much quicker than you think. He can take the dead areas of your life, and breathe new life into them. He can make that which seems dead, yield fruit.
But in order for Him to do so, you have to be willing to dream again. You have to be willing to reach into those dark, once forgotten, and often painful places to retrieve the dreams God placed on the inside of you. And you have to be willing to do the hard work to bring them back to life.
I don’t think Joseph ever lost sight of the dream God had given him as a child. If he had, I’m 100% certain he never would have reached the point where he single-handedly saved all of Israel and Egypt from certain death. Somehow, in the midst of being sold into slavery, and working as a servant, and being accused of adultery, and imprisoned and forgotten, Joseph found the strength to hold onto his dreams. And he worked hard. And he was faithful to the vision even when a lot of times it seemed that the vision wasn’t faithful to him. Somehow, in spite of hurt and abuse and misery and betrayal, he was able to become everything God had put on his heart to become: a leader, a servant, a good steward, a wise man. And when the right time came, and the opportunity presented itself, he didn’t let what others said about him, or his position in life, or his past stop him from taking hold of that which God had prepared for him.
That is what blooming is all about. Blooming is that place in between maturity and yielding fruit where we must find the courage to step out in faith. It’s our part of the process where we learn to silence the voices that say we can’t, to conquer our fear of the unknown, and to put in the work it takes to see the vision God has given us come alive. It’s where we stop living the dreams of others, and embrace the dreams and visions that we were given by our Creator – the same dreams and visions He’s prepared us for.
Blooming, I’m finding out first hand, will take more than you’ve probably ever given to anything in your life. Whether it’s a dream to start a million-dollar business, to direct an award-winning play, to write a best-selling book, to be a better mom, husband, steward or servant, or simply to love people well, it will cost you more than anything you’ve ever paid before. You will have to say no to easy roads, and yes to roads that you don’t even think you have the strength to travel. You will have to reevaluate your priorities and cut out things in your life that might seem good but are not good for you in this season. But to yield the kind of fruit God created you to yield, you have to be willing to do the work and pay the price. And if you do, the reward will be better than anything you can imagine. Nothing brings greater joy to the soul than living the life that only you were created to.
But how do you even know what that life is? How do you filter past all the dreams and opinions of others and find the dreams that are unique to you? How do you figure out who you were created to be?
The first step in finding out who we were created to be is in remembering who we were before anyone told us who we were supposed to be.
So I want you to take a moment and close your eyes. Think back to when you were younger – who were you? What were you like? Who did you most want to be? Understand that purpose is not a place, and so living out a dream is not necessarily about a profession. Even now, think about what in your everyday life most sets your soul on fire. That, my dear, is the Dream. That is the area in which you are being called to bloom.
So write it down and make it clear, because we’ve got some work to do.