Dreams, Disappointment, Hope, and Why This Blog Is Called “Average Us”

Well over a decade ago, a good friend challenged me with this question:

What do you dream about?

I remember feeling creases deepen on my brow as I answered emphatically, and somewhat bitterly,

I don’t dream. I’ve had enough disappointment already.

This post is about why I stopped dreaming, how I eventually discovered that hope in God is better than my dreams, and why this blog is called Average Us.

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Follow your passion.

Pursue excellence.

Chase your dreams.

Dream big.

Believe in yourself.

Be awesome!

Sound familiar?

I’ve heard messages like these most of my life. Advertisements. Motivational Gurus. Preachers. Bloggers. All urging me to chase something which I’m not—but could be—because the potential, they say, lies within me:

The potential to be great.

And my over-stuffed ego believed it. Too much.

Like those who built the tower of Babel, I dreamed of making a name for myself, of leaving my mark on the world, at least, in the church world.

❯ UNEXPECTED REALITIES

And so, I dreamed the dream of awesome…

but quickly found I wasn’t.

Instead, I found that I was mistake prone (e.g. I made bad decisions), that mistakes have consequences, and that consequences can last for years.

I found that life is hard. Things don’t go your way. You have to pay your dues, and start at the bottom (sometimes more than once).

I found that no one makes it alone, and that I was a poor bridge builder.

I found that I really wasn’t all that. I wasn’t as smart, or gifted, or talented, or winsome, or influential, or confident, or wise, or tenacious, or inspiring, or cool-under-pressure, or stable, or energetic, or great…

as I thought I was.

So, by the time I was in my late-thirties, I was a disillusioned former pastor reluctantly beginning an IT career, wondering miserably who I was. I felt like twenty years of dreams just withered and blew away. The only thing awesome about me was the size of my identity crisis.

And my biggest fear?—was that soon my son would be old enough to realize his dad was a loser.

What do you dream about? my friend asked.

Dream? Ha! I dreamed about not feeling bitter.

❯ CHASING AWESOME

I’m not alone am I? Some of you can identify with my disappointment with life.

You and I live in a society of dreamers. That’s pretty much the promise of America: You can achieve your dream. American books and blogs and music and magazines stick awesome in your face and tell you how you can be that, too. In school, kids are told they can be anything they want to be. In church, they hear how God will do amazing things with their lives. In college, the graduation speaker tells them to dream big and make a difference in the world.

But, in spite of what we’re told, in spite of whatever intellect, charm, or creativity we may possess, and even if you don’t fail like I did, most of us have to settle for much less than our dreams promised.

❯ EMBRACING AVERAGE

So, what are we supposed to do? Just be that disappointed 40-year-old me who wouldn’t dream? Are we just supposed to give up on our dreams?

We could. For a long time, I did.

But maybe, my dreams were just… wrong?

Since I was 16 I had professed to be a Christian, but my dreams were all about me being a messiah. While saying I belonged to God, I, like Adam and Eve, dreamed of being a god. My dreams were all about who I could be and what I could do. I forgot that I was just a bit-actor on God’s stage.

Instead of dreaming about how I could be awesome, I needed to dream about the One who is. Instead of dreaming of what I could do (or even of what God might do through me), I needed to dream about what God has done, of what He is doing, of what He promises to do.

I needed to embrace my own averageness, placing my dreams and hopes in the truth that God alone is great and awesome.

In fact, I needed to learn that God is great, even when my life isn’t.

❯ AVERAGE AMBITIONS

I dreamed the dream of awesome, and found I wasn’t. I’m not. I won’t be. And most importantly, I’m not supposed to be.

And if that’s the case, then embracing my averageness and God’s greatness will have to look something like this in my life. You could call these my new ambitions, my new dreams:

1. Significance: I must look for significance in the mere fact that by God’s grace alone I belong to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, and not in anything I can be, or achieve.

2. Contentment: I must learn to be content in every situation He ordains for me, whether joy or sorrow, because I know God is great, and I belong to Him. My achievements, talents, personal appearance, public image, self image, skills, knowledge, influence, popularity, and wealth must have no connection to my contentment in Him.

3. Usefulness: My desire must be to be found found useful to Him in any way He chooses, and to be helpful, reliable, and compassionate to those He brings into my life, whether I receive their recognition or not.

4. Growth: I must become ever more attentive to God’s work in the world, and God’s message to the world, so that I may become more useful to Him, and more helpful to others.

❯ MY AVERAGE LIFE

The thing that most helped me to dream these new dreams was a valuable lesson I learned at a men’s retreat:

Whatever problem you face, find a verse in the Bible that addresses it. Memorize that verse. Turn it into a prayer. Write it down. And pray it every single day.

My problem was disappointment over how my life had turned out, but Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 teaches that we can find enjoyment in God’s simple provisions of life: food, drink and work.

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

So, for three years I prayed a prayer which I drew from this passage:

Father, please match my gifts, skills, interests, and education with my source of income, and let me be useful to you whatever I do.

God heard. God answered. (That’s another story).

But it was the praying that got to me.

Prayer was what taught me, slowly, bit-by-bit, to hope in God, not myself; to be content to be average, not dream of greatness.

That’s how I learned to trust

God is great, even when life isn’t.

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11 thoughts on “Dreams, Disappointment, Hope, and Why This Blog Is Called “Average Us”

  1. Wow! Thanks for saying this Lon! I think you’re correct. I think the whole of Scripture is about God choosing the most average people to do the most extraordinary things. Very, very few of us have these “high profile” callings, as it were. For most us the best we can do is to hold our thoughts, ambitions, and gifts captive to our Creator. To be faithful and trusting in all things and as you point out to find contentment in that. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Steve, thanks for the encouragement. It took a long time for me to learn this, even when I would have agreed with this.

  2. Hi Lon,
    I think you hit many nails right on the head. Death of dreams is a hard pill to swallow. But ultimately, they can bring you to a right relationship with God, a better understanding of who we should be in Him. It’s something that is not addressed in the pulpit as such and would be a wonderful thing to teach our kids-all our hopes of this life should be found in Christ Jesus. I think our life lessons should be shared more often- seems we have got away from that. We will spend $$ to buy a book from someone we don’t know on how to draw closer to God, when we have people in our churches who have wonderful lessons to share and they go unsaid and unrecognized. I’ve always said that it would be neat to have each person in the church write something about their lives/lessons learned, etc. bind it into a book.
    The world teaches us that it is all about us and God teaches us that it is all about Him.
    Well said and a timely message.
    Thank you.

    • Thank you Corrine, What a great idea you suggested. It could work, with a little curation and inspiration. I recently heard of a place in Las Vegas, that invites people to write a confession of something their ashamed of anonymously on a placard. These confessions are then displayed as art there. People’s need to be heard and share goes deeper than anonymous confession, though. We all want to be known, its just that most environments don’t feel safe enough to let your guard down. One approach is anonymity. But the church can provide something better, I think.

  3. This is such a transparent and thoughtful post. I wish I had heard this in a graduation speech when I was younger. Your prayer is really valid at any point in life, since gifts, skills, education, and interests all change or mature. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you Aaron. If I’m ever invited to speak at such an event, I’ll try to share the same message. Thanks or your comment.

  4. Thank you for this post. Your prayer is powerful and timely. Glad I found your blog, it’s truly encouraging.

    Blessings

    Melody

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