“Follow your dreams.”
Heard that before? I know I’ve seen my share of Oprah’s featuring people who have followed their dreams and ____________. You fill in the blank. It’s something so common I’ve taken for granted the fact that as a culture we place a lot of value in chasing after the dream.
Is that bad? Of course not. The whole concept is something that helps define who we are as a nation, and I think the belief that anyone can pursue a dream engenders a lot of hope. It’s inspiring to see someone who has accomplished more than anyone could have thought possible because he or she never lost sight of the dream. Just think about the Olympics for goodness sake!
But even though the concept in and of itself is a good thing, I think it has turned into something that leaves us all vulnerable to falling victim to the trap of the pursuit of happiness. Does that sound like an oxymoron? At first glance, probably so. It makes sense to want to do things that make us happy, and I, for one, really enjoy being happy.
So what’s the problem? Well, one of the things I’ve come to see about God is that what makes sense to us is often exactly opposite of what makes sense to Him. For example, He uses the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong He tells us we gain our life by losing it, He says that those who are first, will be last and those who are last, will be first. So many things are backward from what seems logical and what comes so naturally to us, yet I have no trouble believing that God is the one who has it right.
Let me get to the point. I don’t think that God’s end result is our happiness. Am I saying God doesn’t want us to be happy? Absolutely not. I think that it would be impossible to deny that the very best things in this earth God made for us to enjoy. I think that God loves to give us the gift of happiness, and there is not one thing in the world wrong with enjoying the good parts of life as often as we can. In fact, I think it would a tragedy not to. But the key words back there were “end result.”
Happiness just isn’t what’s most important in this life. Instead, what God does say is important is loving others. Serving others. Putting others before ourselves. Living to bring God glory by being available to Him in whatever capacity He asks us, not living to try and do everything in our power to make ourselves happy. The fact is, happiness that we try and get by doing for ourselves is a shallow pool at best, and as soon as we take our first splash in it, it’s going to disappoint.
And unfortunately, the disillusionment just as often as not, sends us right back to the same old tricks, trying to manufacture happiness for ourselves by doing what we think is going to make us happy. The problem is, that’s not a part of God’s equation and eventually, everything that is outside of His best plan is inevitably going to leave us unsatisfied. When you really boil it down, isn't that the truth?
That’s why it suddenlty dawned on me that our obsession with following dreams is a potential pitfall we hazhard when the pursuit of those dreams is at the price of doing what it is that we were really called to do. I guess it all comes down to honesty, and being able to look yourself in the eyes and answer the question, "what's my motivation?" A dream that is born out of selfishness and achieved at the cost of the others in our life is never going to get us what we want. But a dream that God gives us that we pursue not just for our happiness but for His glory? That's where the true joy follows. And even though happiness can be more fun, when it comes down to it I'd rather have joy.
I wrote because I think it's something about our culture we need to be on the look out for, because otherwise, it's almost impossible to detect when it creeps into our own life. I don't want the happiness that the world pushes to ever become my end goal. Dreams are important, but lining those dreams up with the dreams God has dreamed for us, that’s what it’s really all about.