It’s not easy to realize that some dreams, no matter how long or deeply held, don’t belong to you. For a man like myself who has done a great many interesting things in his young life, with plans to do many more, this can be a difficult truth to swallow.
You see, in our world of busy-ness, we think of identity as something which flows out of activity. As I grow and spend more time in prayer, I’m beginning to see that some of the things I’ve wanted to do in life don’t actually align with my identity.
I’ve given up my dream of being a commissioned officer in the military, and it has come with its own bittersweetness that I still have to swallow at times. It comes not from a fear that I could not do the job well or that, if I fought hard, I would not somehow make it into the upper echelon. I believe I could/would.
The truth is, however, that if I am or ever might be a leader of men, it will not be in the bonds or fashions of military service; at least, not as a commissioned officer.
If I am anything, it is a man in vision, and not a vision in the traditional sense, but that I see and can transpose great truths for people to understand through writing and personal counsel. It does not make me a teacher or some great cultic prophet — I have interest in neither. Instead, my core skills are in communication and allegory; I relate complex truths in simple principles.
While these are, indeed, good skills a leader might possess, my passions do not drive me to gather men and manage their affairs. I do not want to “keep” a troop, group or office. I do not want to be a commander who guides people by my will.
I thrive on the outside.
This is not the role of a commissioned officer. It’s hardly the role of a senior enlisted, but this is where I am, and while I will stay.
It is this embrace that gives me pause before pursuing ascension any longer, because while a commission would create better pay and prestige, I need neither to be happier in life.
Instead, it is time to delve deeper into my identity, scrubbing out what doesn’t belong and truly learning who I really am deep down. This will not happen overnight. It will not be instantaneous. It will take time and dedication and prayer and, most of all, quieting myself to hear God’s voice.
God made me, which means he already designed my identity before my first cell was sown in my mother’s womb. While He won’t reveal everything about that identity in one sitting, learning who I am should begin and end with God.
I share this story because I think many of you out there might also be struggling with a dream without realizing its disconnection with who you are. We have either embraced dreams because we thought they were good directions for us to go, or because our parents or culture espoused them to us. Maybe you’re trying to get a job only because you think it’s a good place to work or “the right next step” for you. Maybe you’re hoping for a certain kind of relationship, marriage or children. There are too many dreams out there to even list a sampling of them, but you know what your dreams are.
The real question is: Do those dreams belong to your true identity?
If your answer might be no, then you really have to stop and ask yourself why you’re pursuing that dream. Stop using excuses — even good ones — to justify pursuing something that doesn’t really sing to your soul.
I’m not talking about quitting your job and painting for a living. We all have to pay the bills, and I assure you I have done and will continue doing work that falls well outside my lifelong passion; I want to continue eating and enjoying a roof over my head.
But if you’re wasting your deepest energy on a dream that doesn’t belong to you, I think you’re either wasting your life, or merely putting off the inevitable realization that that dream will not only make you not-happy, but could bring you more misery than it is worth.
It’s not easy letting dreams go, but I ask you to consider it. Not so that you live a life without dreams, but so that the dreams you live for are the dreams you were made for.