Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. -- Proverbs 4:23
Does your dream scare you? If it doesn't, maybe it's not big enough.
I remember the moment my dream of being a novelist took wings.
Sure, I'd always believed God was behind my desire to write, and I know nothing is too difficult for Him to achieve. But there's a difference between believing something in your mind and in your heart.
My entire life, I've loved books and stories. A part of me always wanted to see my name on a book jacket. But who actually believes that will happen to them? I think if we're not careful, we can get weighed down by realities, and we stop seeing the goal of the dream God has purposely laid on our hearts. We forget He is the one behind our desires, and we start trying to get there on our own--meanwhile, always preparing ourselves for the possibility we might fail. But the cool thing about God's purposes is they never fail. If God has called you to something, He has a reason, and He is going to see you through.
At the 2011 ACFW Conference, I met one of my heroes: Allen Arnold, the then-VP of Thomas Nelson. I wasn't even planning to talk to him that year. I didn't think I was ready. But he graciously asked me about my book, and throughout that conference, affirmed my dream. I remember vividly going back to my room at one point and just crying because I was so overwhelmed by what God was doing. So overwhelmed that God would use a person I had so much respect for to encourage me.
There are dream speakers in this world, and there are dream killers. I want to talk first about dream killers because I think many of these are things we can silence on our own accord.
Imagine you're walking on a nature trail to this beautiful waterfall. You've heard all this hype about how incredible it is, how it's worth the journey, but the trail is tough. You start getting bitten by mosquitoes and thinking about West Nile Virus. You start wishing you would've worn your old tennis shoes instead of your new Coach flip flops. Bees are buzzing around everywhere, and you find yourself darting away from them (--I'm not the only one who does this, am I?--).
Before you know it, you begin to wonder if you should just turn around.
If we aren't careful, we become distracted from our calling. I believe this is one of the most effective methods the enemy has for keeping us from God's plans: he convinces us to put our own armor down.
If you're too busy looking at the ground, you're going to start feeling weighed down, and you aren't going to be able to see the staircase God is building on a higher level in your life. I actually wrote a blog about this yesterday if this is a concept that speaks to you and you want to read more. Bottom line is, we are all prone to getting distracted by things big and small, positive and negative, that call attention away from where we should be spending our time, energy, and heart.
When it really comes down to it, what do you believe about God? What do you believe about yourself? If you don't really believe you can be a published novelist, why not? Does a part of you fear you've heard God wrong, that He's playing a trick on you? That maybe, worse yet, you've been forgotten by God? Let's be honest. We all feel like this from time to time. I think it's so important to be constantly aware of the assumptions that lurk behind our image of God and ourselves because they shape the attitudes of our hearts. If you doubt your ability to fulfill your calling, you are officially a writer. But we don't have to stay in that place. Lord, we ask you for faith to fulfill the wonderful purposes You have set forth in our lives, to glimpse the reality of the dreams You have set in our hearts.
How many times have you looked at a draft of your novel and thought, "This is really terrible. What am I thinking? I could never be an author. No one would want to read this stuff"? How many times have you read feedback from others, maybe even contest judges or people you respect, and come away feeling like a failure? After a while, we pick up messages of insufficiency, one by one like little rocks, until our calling becomes a backpack that's too heavy to carry on our own. God wants to empty that out. He said His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Criticism is necessary and often hard, but the important thing is that we do not carry that disbelief with us. For when we allow it entrance through the doors of our heart, we have welcomed company that seeks to hunt down and kill our dreams.
Thankfully, we have a choice. We can tire of fighting these dream killers and give in to them, or we can instead press on and give ear to dream speakers instead.
- God's Word
I know, I know. You've heard this a million times. I sound like a 7th grade Sunday School teacher. But I am telling you, if you give God a chance, He will speak to you right where you are. We just have to let Him. If we're not reading the Bible and spending time in prayer, why do we expect Him to speak to us? And yet we all are guilty of this, aren't we?
When I came home from the ACFW Conference this year, reality started setting in, and the confidence I'd felt in Dallas began giving way to nervousness. Then I read this verse on BibleGateway's verse of the day e-mail:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. -- Hebrews 10:35-36
Wow. What an incredible message from the heart of God.
- Our Thoughts
I think that as Christians, we often neglect our thought life. We associate meditation and positive thinking with quacky theology. And please don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting you do a few deep breathing exercises and declare yourself the god of the universe. But... so often we underestimate the power of what happens in our minds. The Bible says we have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ. How often do we take God up one? If we spent more time rehearsing the promises of God in our thoughts rather than rehearsing our failures over and over again, what sort of closed doors would be opened to us?
I want to encourage you to be a dream speaker in the lives of those around you, and to be a good steward and keeper of the dream God has trusted to your heart. It's so easy to allow discouragement to burden us, and to then become a burden to others. Dream killers are contagious. Run from them. Choose to instead affirm your calling.
How do you handle the distractions and discouragement that come your way in life? Do you have strategies for reviving those dreams that seem to have fallen to the wayside? How do you protect your heart?
Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.