Idolising Dreams

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In Disney’s Zootopia, the main character—a rabbit aspiring to a career in law enforcement—talks at one point to what appears to be a baby fox, dressed like an elephant. The kid’s dream is to be an elephant when he grows up but everybody laughs at this dream. Comforting the kid, the officer says, “And you, little guy, you want to be an elephant when you grow up? You be an elephant, because this is Zootopia, where anyone can be anything.”

The film’s star achieves her impossible dream to be a police officer. As in every Disney film, her dream is realised and everyone lives happily ever after. As the famed Disney ditty puts it,

When you wish upon a star,
makes no difference who you are,
anything your heart desires will come to you.

This attitude exists not only in the world of Disney. Jim Collins and Jerry Porhas famously advised organisations to adopt a BHAG (BEE-hag)—a big, hairy, audacious goal. Organisations fare best when driven by a ten to thirty year goal, they argued. In Christian parlance, this has been turned into counsel for every Christian to have a God-sized dream. These dreams usually have the goal of accomplishing something great for God—but often the unintended side effect of pursuing that dream according to our own agenda.

In his memoir, Me, Myself, and Bob, Veggietales creator Phil Vischer tells his personal story of dreaming big and working hard—and almost killing himself in the process. He believed that God had called him to do something big and everything he did was driven by his BHAG. When the entire Veggietales empire came crashing down around him, he finally realised that his dream had become an idol and learned to follow God’s leading rather than pursuing his BHAG.

Far from urging his readers to dream big, Paul urges us to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” The result of this will be that we “walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12). The New Testament nowhere suggests that every Christian should be driven by a BHAG. Scripture calls us, instead, to faithfully live out our calling. Jesus called some disciples to abandon their career to follow him; he told others to go home to their friends and continue their life as normal (Mark 5:19). God calls some Christians to great, public service, but he calls most to faithfully live out their Christianity in their homes, communities, and careers.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with wanting to accomplish something significant from God, so long as we are content to serve him in small ways if that is all he asks of us. Too often, dreaming big from God is closer to demanding great things from God. Our dreams become something that we prize over our relationship with Christ. They become, in other words, an idol.

What do you hope to accomplish in God’s kingdom work? How will you respond if your dreams are never realised? What will you do when your personal Veggietales empire comes crashing down and you realise that God is instead calling you to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands”? Is your satisfaction with Christ sufficient when your BHAG is never realised? Are you content for Christ’s name to be exalted in the little things in life, even if you never accomplish something great for his glory?

It may be significant to observe that, usually, when God gives a dream he calls us to some difficult task. He appeared to Joseph in a dream when he called him to take Mary as wife, despite the shame and the ridicule that that would invite. He appeared to another Joseph in a dream shortly before he was beaten, sold into slavery, and faced time in an Egyptian dungeon.

As you consider your dreams for God this morning, make it your pursuit, above all else, to “live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” Be content to serve faithfully in the vocation to which you have been called, whether or not you ever achieve a BHAG for God.