Last year, as Jon, Kristi, and I ended our five-year tenure as volunteer youth pastors for Church on the Rock Abilene. In our final weeks, we kept it pretty simple–no elaborate lesson series, no book studies. Instead, we each chose a passage from scripture that held particular meaning in our lives, and we read the passage and then explained its personal significance. It took me a while to settle on a passage–there are so many that have been important to me–but I finally chose the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7.
If you grew up going to church, I’ll wager that this is a familiar passage to you. You probably sang “The wise man built his house upon the rock…” complete with hand motions (my friends and I always took great delight in shouting “SPLAT!” when we got to the end of the second verse). And you probably learned that the moral of the parable is, as the song says, that you should “build your life on the Rock, Jesus Christ.” I don’t know how many lessons on this passage I heard from birth through 12th grade, all explaining to me that I need to have Jesus as my life’s foundation. But this passage was never all that meaningful to me because I did, indeed, build the house of my life on Christ. I was a wise builder, you see.
So wise, in fact, that I also decided to invest in a little beachfront property for a vacation house. This is where I “recklessly built all my dreams,” to borrow a line from Jennifer Knapp, only I didn’t see it that way at the time. I convinced myself that my dreams, particularly my dream of becoming a professional horse trainer, were part of God’s plan for my life and that in pursuing them, I was really serving my faith. To return to my house metaphor, I was moving the rocks down to the beach, as if that would create a solid foundation where, in reality, there was none.
For my little story, the storm of the parable came in the form of the realization–a very slow and painful realization–that my dream of becoming a horse trainer, which I had clung to wildly since childhood, was no longer right for me. I had to give it up. My extravagant beach house went SPLAT! and I felt homeless and aimless. It was a dark time for me as I tried to figure out my life and myself apart from that dream. I felt empty. Whenever I thought about, heard, or saw reference to that great American values that we should believe in the beauty and power of our dreams, I felt betrayed and jaded. The power and beauty of my dreams were now rubble and ash.
The problem was that I had moved in to my beach house. I had taken up residence in my dreams and invested my time and energy there, neglecting my house built on the Rock. But I did still have that house, so I was not undone. It took a long time and a lot of work to recreate a place of contentment and cultivate a new sense of direction, but I gradually did. And, behold, the Lord renewed my spirit and gave me new dreams and a new sense of purpose characterized by peace, contentment, and hope. And that is where I live now.
One of the things I tried to get across to our youth group kids the night I shared all this with them was that dreams are fickle things, as unstable as sand and completely unfit as a dwelling place. Dreams change too often and too easily for us to stake our lives on them. And dreams are beautiful and powerful and valuable. Just don’t move in to them.
P.S. You probably noticed the change in appearance to my blog. I felt that it was time for a new look. You may also notice that now there is a widget on the sidebar that allows you to subscribe by email. I don’t know how it works, but there is.