Ever-Changing Dreams

balloons

We all love to dream. As little girls, we dream of being famous ballerinas, or actresses, or writing books. Those dreams last with us into our teen years, as we imagine ways in which to make them a reality. It’s only as an adult that reality stuns us with the odds of our own potential success… and they are not good.

In that moment, we’re faced with a choice: to give up on our dream or to pursue it, knowing we have a one in a million chance of success.

Sometimes, it’s easy to give up on a dream, since it was never really part of us to begin with. But sometimes, it’s devastating to face the truth. If that dream has been our whole identity from childhood, it suddenly feels as if your life spins off its axis, and you are “No One.”

Recently, I’ve struggled a lot with that very thing. Nothing is comforting in those first few days of fleeting panic and sudden, total loss of identity. You sit and wonder, “What else could I possibly be?” and your mind flashes blank. You can’t imagine anything else. But if you are very fortunate, someone will come into your life and ask you, “If you could run any business, one of your very own, what would it be?” I didn’t even have to think about it—I just answered. It’s nothing I have ever done before, it has nothing to do with what I am best known for, but it shocked me how much joy I thought I would get from doing it.

My “big” dream isn’t gone, but it now has a rosy hue of reality around it. I know it’s probably impossible but if it happens I will be delighted (and terrified). But I’m creating other dreams for myself, more achievable dreams with higher odds of success. I think this is the key to happiness, not to put all of yourself into one dream, but to have many things you could do, or would like to do, in case your “epic” dream doesn’t happen for awhile (if ever). I also believe that God gives us ambitions and desires for a purpose, to use them, and takes them away from us if they are not what is best for us. After all, He knows what plans He has for us, right? So we can trust Him with our dreams.

I always thought I would be one thing, but it may be that I find more joy in another instead.

26 Replies to “Ever-Changing Dreams”

  1. I just wanted to say, thanks for this. I’m a teenage INTJ (yes, actually, not just posturing as Sherlock Holmes in some mindless infatuation, thank you.) and this is a question I’ve been wrestling with silently for the better part of two years. still wrestling with it, but it’s nice for someone else to acknowledge that I’m mildly justified in loosing gargantuan amounts of sleep in contemplation of dreams verses practicality. Also, my dream is to become a writer, and you’re one of the first INTJ writers I’ve come across in some time, so that brings the statistic up a bit. Odds a bit better, you know. So thanks, for easing the horribly complex mixture of hormones and an INTJ.

    1. As an INTJ, we constantly struggle against “fitting inside the box” the world wants us to conform to. We’re dreamers (our “N” function) and that sometimes brutally conflicts with reality but… we also don’t have to do things the way the rest of the world does them!

      When you look at the odds of being published as a writer, they are miniscule with so many variables to take into consideration (the market, the economy, the current fads, etc). BUT… the world is changing. Big publishers may slowly be phased out in favor of smaller publishing companies catering to a specific group of people. You no longer have to find an agent — you can get a good editor, polish your book up, and have it on Amazon Kindle within 48 hours. You may or may not become a bestseller, but you no longer have to rely on OTHERS to make your plans reality. Remember that, and as a writer, it will give you hope. Just write. Dream. Figure out what you want to accomplish and do it.

  2. Ah, dreams. Some are so hard to let go of, even if it’s best. It’s disappointing to know that x will never happen, especially when it’s been something you’ve always planned/wished for.

  3. You are braver than I am. I still can’t let go of some of those youthful dreams. Maybe someday, but right now I am chasing them, hoping to catch them. I hope to high heavens that I’m not just chasing after the wind.

    1. Well, if you are — that’s okay. Our lives are formed of different moments, different interests, different dreams. There’s nothing wrong with dreams — I just want to encourage you to have more than one, and at least one that doesn’t rely on others to bring about. =)

  4. Interesting post, especially in light of how I caught myself recently thinking that I ought to be more realistic about certain things.

    I think the ultimate problem is that irregardless of how logical one is, the things you want to do, and thing you (in terms of realistic probability) can or will do, don’t necessarily match up.

    So, does God give us our dreams? This is actually a topic I’ve discussed a lot with my friends. On the one hand, if God is behind all that’s truly wonderful, inspiring and bright in this world, then surely–well–these ideas come from Him, right?

    Then again the Bible talks of people or nations, being blessed and chosen by God for great things, then ruining them through their own stupidity. (The OT is chock full of it! 😛 ) But we’re also warned that evil can deceive us, and look good, and lead us astray.

    My friends and I have also spent a lot of time discussing with literal, night-time dreams are heaven-sent….or have a not so happy origin. On the one hand, God did communicate with people via dreams, even sending dreams to non-believers, such as the Pharaoh mentioned in Genesis. (All so that Joseph could be dragged out to interpret! 😉 )

    Then again, I’m a little uneasy about being to quick to leap to the conclusion that a dream is a “sign” of something, and in fact, feel that becoming overly reliant on convenient “signs” smacks of superstition.

    Fewer people are getting married now, which means there are a lot of single women out there. Why don’t men want us? I don’t know, but I hope and pray that the girls who really, really want to get married can hang in there and find other dreams in the meantime.

    The thing is–I here from some that it’s really hard to find nice, Christian young men–but then I know plenty of Christian young women who do get married, sometimes after having more than one offer. I’m not sure what it is–or if it’s more a factor of cultural/geographic isolation for some women. (Also, polls keep showing that Christian women are actually outnumbered by single Christian men in their 20s-40s–so this is another piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit)

    1. Sometimes, the things I dream about becoming stand in direct conflict with my personality – I could do them, but I might be miserable in the ACT of doing them. =P

      I don’t think dreams are the way God communicates with us anymore – at least, considering my truly strange dreams, I HOPE NOT. He’s God and can do whatever He wants, but I’m always skeptical of people who say, “God gave me this mission in a dream.” There’s no way to prove or disprove it, but often I think someone says theirs is a “God-sent” mission just to clarify for themselves that this is what they have chosen to do, and SHOULD be doing.

      (God isn’t a dictator. He gives us a million options; we pick one and go with it.)

      Are the girls having trouble finding guys introverts? Usually, the extroverts get married first – since they’re not afraid to get out there, date, have conversations, go to parties, and so forth. We tend to forget that guys can be extroverts and introverts too. The extroverts get married. The introverts aren’t sure how to go about it, so they stay single longer. As for us being outnumbered by guys – oh, really? Where are these Christian guys? I’ve only actually SEEN a few guys in my entire life! =D

      1. I don’t think dreams are the way God communicates with us anymore – at least, considering my truly strange dreams, I HOPE NOT.

        Ha! Yeah–I know, most of my dreams are so bizarre that the thought of their having divine origin is disconcerting rather than reassuring 😉 That said, God can do whatever He wants, as you say, so I don’t think it’s impossible. But I do think signs and dreams providing specific indications and whatnot are a little unlikely. In fact, I don’t think such things have ever been terribly common, else why would the Bible make special mention of God calling Samuel?

        (Now, at this point in my comment, I stopped to look up the exact Bible verses, and came across this : (NIV) 1 Samuel 3 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. )

        So yes, we can hope for God to guide us, but not provide a detailed tourist map of where we’re going 😛

        When it comes to the case of Christian men vs women–I’m not sure. I’ve seen both extroverts and introverts lament the situation. Some girls say they don’t mind “putting themselves out there”, but when they go to the big church fest, or other venues–there are almost no single guys remotely in their age range. Or that in other cases, there are plenty of single guys–just not many Christian ones. While other girls (and I’m fairly sure these are introverts) talk about feeling too shy to engage with guys–but that in any case most of them didn’t seem interested in marriage. This is another issue actually. I have seen plenty of websites promoting that girls, especially homeschooled, Christian young girls, are prepared primarily or exclusively for marriage, and the glory of being a wife and mother–but nothing similar for guys. There are a few things out there for men who are already married, and have children on the way, that talk about “godly father and son” relationships. But there’s nothing equivalent, telling young men to “look forward to the day when you assume the mantle of father and husband.” So that’s another issue, as I pointed out to my friends, Christian culture doesn’t promote the idea of men “looking forward” to their marriage, and when they’re half of the equation–that spells trouble.

        1. There’s quite a few people in the Bible who experienced prophetic dreams, but none are noted after Jesus, right? If so, we may presume God speaks as rarely through dreams now as He ever did — which wasn’t often.

          I do wonder where the Christian guys are — since they haven’t been in any of the dozen churches I’ve attended over the last fifteen years. In a Baptist church I attended, they did give some sermons on the role of men as fathers and spiritual leaders in their household — it’s not an enviable position, I must admit. Imagine, being eternally responsible for the spiritual fate of your children. =P

          1. Imagine, being eternally responsible for the spiritual fate of your children.

            The thing is–despite the many articles on the subject, I actually don’t think parents are responsible for their children’s spiritual welfare.

            Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying parents don’t have the duty to try to tell their children about God, impart to them some form of religious education–but in the end–parents are not directly responsible for their children’s salvation. Only God can save us, and only we can decide if we will take the “offer” if you can call it that, of grace and forgiveness that God has extended to us.

            What exasperates me is that I see so many articles, books and whatnot, acting as though if one is a good enough parent, one’s children will–or must become good Christians. But that isn’t the case. Yes, the chance to grow and live surrounded by fellow Christians helps, but it can’t fully guarantee anything. There’s also the danger of falling into a “complacent” form of Christianity.

            I’ve also seen a lot of homeschooling parents talk about being afraid for their children to be exposed to “anti-Christian” viewpoints…but their children are no longer children, they’re as old as 16 or 18 in some cases, heading out into the adult world. I understand erring on the side of caution when it comes to young children, but sooner or later they’re going to encounter something that clashes with their beliefs. You can’t shelter your child forever, and as a friend of mine says “we shouldn’t be afraid our children will choose something else if we have faith in what we believe.”. The truth, in this case, God’s truth, can stand on its own strength.

          2. I don’t know what I think on the first matter, so I have no real opinion on it, although I do agree that our choice of whether or not to be saved is ours alone.

            Families who do not introduce their children to alternative points of view and deal with it in a godly manner run the risk of their child leaving home and abandoning their faith, since it has never been confronted with alternative points of view.

          3. Admittedly, I feel my thoughts on the above matter are not as “developed” as they would be, so to speak, if I had children, so I can only go with the perspective I have from experience, and other friends who grew up, usually homeschooled, in Christian households.

            I think some might feel that by sheltering their children from sin, they will prevent their children from committing sin.

            I–I don’t know, I feel that sometimes while parents/family ought to be involved, we ought to be able to occasionally lean back and let God handle things more often–trust He knows what He’s doing? Or is that we don’t trust in God as often as we should?

            Ah well, good post–as always. I really enjoy these type of posts, and I just wanna to say that these exchanges, along with the others I’ve read in the comments–have inspired me to try to start living more biblically as an experiment.

  5. When an emotion is bright, the daily life seems grey… it happens after some trips or meetings with interesting people. Or even movies – I had a recent blow in that matter, and still suffer from it bitterly 🙂 A sudden desire of another life.
    But we are obliged to live the life that we have, now and here. And the void under our feet after we “fly away” reminds us that we must rely on God. No compromises.

    1. We all have moments where we want a different life. But if we had it, would we like it? Maybe… maybe not. As my dad says, “Better to want what you don’t have than to have what you don’t want.”

  6. Wonderful post Charity.

    Getting the “reality check” that what you wished to be, might not happen, can be CRUSHING. Job, marriage, whatever. You start to wonder if God ever intended for us to have dreams, and if we somehow tried to squish what we thought God wanted for us, into our tiny box of what we thought the future would be.

    Then, I begin to wonder if I just don’t have enough faith. Is that it? Does God just want me to pray harder? Have I failed him so he can’t reward me? Does he just want me to wait longer? Do I not believe that God can make this happen?

    And thus can run a cycle of disappointment and doubt. Rough roads to travel in the mind.

    So I wonder, if God wanted us to only think of aspirations rooted in reality, why would he give us the ability to dream? Why does he ask us to have faith that nothing is impossible? It seems difficult to understand why he would ask us to dream, and then not fulfill the dreams at a pace we can observe.

    I don’t really know the answer, except I think God wants us to fully recognize that if the dreams are fulfilled it’s because he allows it. We know we had almost given up on the dream when he made it happen, and it keeps us from puffing up with pride.

    So, God wants me to have faith in the impossible, but be content in whatsoever state I am in. That’s WAY easier said than done.

    I know everyone has their area they struggle with. Personally, career-wise God landed me in my dream job and I love it. But then on the relationship-side I feel so lost and struggle with why God has not answered my dreams/prayers for friendships and marriage. I wonder if I’ll always feel so alone. And then I just try to remember that Godliness with contentment is great gain.

    That’s what I think your statement describes. “I think this is the key to happiness, not to put all of yourself into one dream, but to have many things you could do, or would like to do, in case your “epic” dream doesn’t happen for a while.” Be content in a variety of things, and don’t let your happiness hinge on one thing.

    Also, your observations about losing self-identity and then rediscovering a new, unfamiliar (but pleasant) life path resonate so well. The dream job I referred to, I feel like I just landed there by providence. Growing up I had BIG ideas of where I thought I would be and do. Then, my senior high school year, I decided to go to college for something completely different, and I did not even fully understand why my mind changed so last minute. But now that I’m here, I can see so many reasons why the first path would have been a poor match for me. I kind of feel like I woke up one day and God planted me where I’m supposed to be, but I have no idea how I got here.

    Thinking of you! ❤

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    On one last note, I find this post very interesting in relationship to your INTJ personality. I'm not very well educated on the personality types, but from the way you've described many INTJs, it seems interesting that they would "dream" at all. Obviously, they (and you) do, because they have emotion and feelings like everyone. But it seems like they would be so rooted in reality and logic that dreams would be too artificial, and would bring little pleasure. Your comment "That’s why you need big dreams — and dreams you can actually accomplish," feels so INTJ! 😉
    Please don't take offence, as I'm still learning about the personality types and how everyone "ticks."

    1. Your comments in your first paragraph are spot on, particularly when it comes to dreaming about finding “the one” and living “happily ever after” in marriage. Fewer people are getting married now, which means there are a lot of single women out there. Why don’t men want us? I don’t know, but I hope and pray that the girls who really, really want to get married can hang in there and find other dreams in the meantime. (My single aunt did eventually get married – at forty! So there is hope!)

      There is some truth in the old adage that we make plans and God laughs. Often what He intends for us is nothing we imagined. My mother went to school to be an educator for children with speaking disabilities. She never thought she would wind up a mother, a saleswoman, or a magazine editor. God changed her dreams.

      I think God wants us to pray about our dreams, yes, and to try for them, but also to be willing not to get them, in the event they are not what is best for us. Often it comes down to “why is this my dream?” Is it for fame? Fortune? Any reason other than our sheer enjoyment of doing it? He wants all of us, including our dreams, and for us to be okay with Him sometimes saying “no”! And that’s the hard part, turning over your dreams knowing He might crush them. But if He does, it’s okay, because He has something better in mind for us.

      Personally, I think without dreams… life would suck. It’s when I start comparing my dreams to reality and realizing how impossible they are that I find myself in total despair. And yes, that is one way God can say, “Look, I did this, not you. Don’t get a big head if you succeed.”

      It IS hard to be content. Man, is it hard. Either we’re not happy with who we are, what we look like, what job we are in, or our relationships (or lack thereof). I do think the hardest thing is being alone. No one wants that, no matter how “independent” they are.

      I’m glad God surprised you with joy (ha, ha, C.S. Lewis reference) in placing you in a career you never expected!

      INTJs are an unusual breed. Here’s how this works: my deeply-rooted emotions say “I want this dream!” and my logical side maps out all the ways it is impossible and answers, “Your dream is LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE, better give up on it.”I would venture to guess that most of our “dreams” hinge on something we are very good at and knowledgeable about, since in that way it seems within the realm of possibility. It just comes down to whether or not we really want to think about all the logical steps it would take to accomplish it. =P

      (Moi? Offended? Nah, only when people disagree with me! 😉

      1. “Is it for fame? Fortune? . . . [God] wants all of us, including our dreams.”

        I think this is the biggest key. Did our ideas match up with God’s intentions? God promises to give us the desires of our heart, but only after we delight ourself also in the Lord.

        I’ve been reflecting on Hebrews 11, where we are told of numerous people who had faith that God would fulfill his promises, but did not see it in their day. My pastor just had a sermon about Sarah – she never saw a grandchild, but look at how God used her to create his chosen people.

        That’s intense stuff, especially when you realize we might not get to see our dreams fulfilled in our lifespan.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Great explanation of the INTJ “dream model”. 😉

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        On a WAY lighter note, I just started watching “Smallville.” It never crossed my radar before, or drew my interest if it did. I have NO idea how that is possible, since I’ve been following you forever. Now when I look at your archived articles, I will accidentally stumble over some “Smallville” clipart and my Mom scolds me because she thinks I’m trying to look for spoilers. Which, I’m not, but if I stumble across them I don’t mind . . hehehe. Just finished Season 2. A bit campy, but I’m enjoying (almost) every bit of it.

        1. Yeah, Mom said the same thing the other day — that C.S. Lewis may have been a writer, but for both him and Tolkien, their biggest fame came after their deaths! They never got to see how huge their stories would be, and maybe that was for the betterment of their souls.

          Yes, Smallville is cheesy… but in a really good way. It’s still a great series. =)

  7. sometimes i think there is a difference between dreams and God-given aspirations. He plants a desire for things in our hearts knowing full-well that they are part of our make-up and that He has intricately knit such passions and desires so that we can develop and grow in Him. I think, for me, it was separating my big dreams ( when I was a kid I wanted to be on Broadway. My life was auditions. I even started my university career as a musical theatre major ) with what I could do that would still fulfill me while recognizing that what I thought was the greatest thing in the world to me could be tempered to serve Him. my other dream as a kid was to be involved with books, writing, that sort of thing. I could never choose between the two until one day when I realized that while one would fulfill me, the other was just meant to be a hobby. I think God gives us desires and aspirations, I think we have a human tendency to weigh those against the metrics of our own inclinations of success. But, He would never want us to shirk off a gift—or not use it for Him. If talent begets dreams then, surely, those are heaven sent. 🙂

    1. Great bunch of thoughts, Rachel. I especially like your first sentence. There is a difference between dreams and aspirations. Well said. 🙂

    2. The world doesn’t lack talent. God dumps it by the bucket full into the world, and it’s up to the individual whether or not they dream that particular dream. Everyone can do something extremely well — sing, act, draw, write, dance, compose, paint, design, etc. Some people can do more than one, or even all of them. Most of us won’t experiment enough to discover how good we are at certain things, so we will never discover the dreams that go along with them. We simply dream about whatever holds our attention first. If we like to read, we want to write. If we like to dance, we want to join the Russian Ballet. If we love Phantom of the Opera, we dream of playing Christine.

      I don’t know that I think God designates certain ambitions for certain people; I think He has a variety of things we could do and the choice of that dream is up to us. Many will pursue it. Few will succeed on any real level. Our only real choice is to be realistic and accept the fact that other people dream the same dreams. If we’re doing it for ourselves, and hopefully for God’s glory, our success won’t matter as much. And yet, all of us want to be important. Our big dreams are big for a reason — because they’re usually almost impossible to bring about.

      That’s why you need big dreams — and dreams you can actually accomplish.

  8. Terrific post, Charity. Love what your closing sentence says – that is so true. It may be hard to “let go” of those dreams, yes, but life sometimes surprises us – and sometimes that is actually the “better” dream for us. Once we accept that, life is good. Very good. 🙂

    Great “food for thought.”

    Keep dreaming! 🙂

    1. Most of the time, the best things in life are nothing we ever chose as a dream for ourselves. It’s good to have dreams — but it’s also good to be open and watch for opportunities and see what God throws in our way. You might exchange one far-fetched dream for something far less famous, but much more fulfilling and impacting.

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