Written by Shaun Smith

awake-girl Every night before bed, I tuck my daughter in and she tells me what she wants to dream about. Some nights she chooses to dream of Tinkerbell.  Other nights it’s playing with cousins and dancing on clouds.  Butterflies are a constant staple.  These are good choices for my little four year old.

In a small way, I envy my daughter.  She’s at the age of vivid dreams that  turn into wonderful adventures of skipping ropes and flying through the air.  I’m happy to get a night of uninterrupted sleep, never mind the dreaming.  After all, I’m an adult.  I have work to do.

Sure, I have dreams.  Not just the kind that I experience at night, but those yearnings that keep me up at night.  I have dreams and aspirations that allow me to think bigger, to live larger, to see the world through believing eyes.  Admit it, you have them too.

As life moves faster and faster, I’ve found that I’ve begun to believe that dreams are for children.  Dreams are for fairy tales and absent-minded teenagers who have yet to experience the real world, the working world.  Dreams are the stuff of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance where the victorious stand in a temporary spot light and tell me that I can accomplish my goals if I just put everything into it.  “Just believe!  Dream!” they shout through tears and stage make-up.  It comes across as a cheap sale, as if life is handing out fulfilled dreams on every corner.

Will dream for food

And so I carry on.  My life is busy.  Catch the bus.  Get to school.  Get to work.  Accomplish this goal and move on to the next stage of life.  Where’s the room for dreams?  Is there a mandatory expiry date on my dreams, as career, kids, and life move in?

The problem with dreams is that they never seem to go away.  They get pushed around, beaten up, shelved by time, but they never disappear.  They are always lingering someplace in the background of our hearts.  They appear here and there to let us know that they still exist.  They poke at our souls, asking questions like, “What would happen if…?”

The dark side of dreams

My own experience has taught me that dreams are easily beaten into submission by both people and circumstances.  When dreams are shattered, it’s difficult to put them back together.  It’s in those moments, in those months and years, where dreams begin to bury themselves underground.  When dreams go unrealized, especially the big dreams of our lives, they can quickly become festering wounds of disillusionment.  I’ve lived in this disillusionment for the past number of years.  And I began to emerge when I was asked a most profound question by an insightful friend:

“What is the goal of your life?  What do you love doing?”

I had a hard time with the reply.  Not because I hadn’t thought about it – I had been thinking about it for years!  I had pursued my passion in life, investing the entirety of my time, my energy, my soul.  And I had watched it all come crashing down.  My response was revealing. “I’m not telling you.  It hurts too much,” I said.

Dreams have that ability.  They infect daily routines with impossible thoughts, with desires that make the heart hurt with possibility.  Dreams can be dangerous, but they are vitally important.

The necessity of dreams

I need to dream, I must dream.  I need to see a world beyond myself, beyond my needs, beyond my abilities.  Dreams are important because they reflect this.  Our core dreams are not visions of grandeur, of hoping for a better job or a better pay, but of who we are.  We dream of what our purpose in world is all about.  Is there a place in the adult world for this sort of dreaming?

I certainly hope so.  After living in the shattered vision of destroyed dreams, I have come to realize that dreams are placed in our heart to give us hope.  They are one of God’s ways of whispering to us, “This is what you are designed to do.  This is how you can share my love in the world.”  Are dreams necessary?  Do they have a role in our lives?

I believe God whispers, “I certainly hope so.”

If you have given up on your dreams, you are not alone. If you’d like to talk about it, we’d love to hear from you. Use this form to  be matched with one of our mentors. Mentors are trained volunteers with real life experience.  They can answer questions, point you to other resources or just listen when you have something to say.

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5 Responses to “Awaken”

  • Hannah Teh P.H. says:

    What is written here definitely echoes my heart. I’d never thought I will find something like this from a christian blogger. If it’s alright with you Shaun, I would like to send “My Letter” to your email address. “My Letter” is a summary of my lost-dream over the last 10 years or so. I’ve after much drafting and re-drafting…brewing…contemplating finally sent out “My Letter” to 2 different individuals end of 2010. One copy to a trained psycho-analyst from NZ and another copy to a devoted christian pastor from South Africa. My act was so to see how they each responds.

    Shaun, if it’s alright with you I would really really love to share “My Letter” with you. I’d prefer however to send “My Letter” as an attachment to your email address. If this is acceptable to you, I’d wait for you to route me your email address.

    Thanks in advance, ~~ Hannah (Malaysia dream-shattered christian)~~

  • kathleen carrico says:

    Nice article. We keep teaching people around us that they can do anything, keep the dream, live the dream. What I learned from this article is to recognize a dream for what it is – you nailed it on the head – it’s what keeps me up at night (and I thought I had sleeping disorders!) I dream of making a difference through spoken and written words, and through action. Not for self glory, but because as I get older, I recognize my own talents that are purely God-given, and I must use them to please God! Each day it’s really up to God, I am merely His instrument. But it’s also how hard I play that instrument that matters, and to never give up. I need to find a way to follow your blogs. With all the business of business, these are the words I love to read, embrace and take action on the most – they lead to greater contributions with everything else!

  • Shaun Smith Shaun Smith says:

    Hey Trev,
    I think part of the process is even seeing that the hurt is there. I really found that my sarcasm was quite a lot more biting, and I unknowingly walked around with a bit of a cloud over my head. I think part of the healing process is allowing that helping/hurting feeling to work itself through (even when it gets out of hand), and to surround yourself with a whole pile of good people who point you in the direction of what you love to do. For me, I found that these sorts of people crossed my path “randomly”. The key was to keep my eyes open, I suppose.

    I’ve found that the healing process took me about a year or two after my first career “ended”. The entire time I spoke of healing, and kept that as a hidden goal that I wanted to attain to. Honestly, the other direction was to become a sarcastic, unbelieving critic who evaluates first and enjoys later. The process of getting back to dreaming though, allows me to enjoy the journey on the way to truly doing what I want (and I’ve admittedly kept the sarcasm). Admittedly, I’m very impatient in the area that I want to get to, but there are clues along the way that I’m not so insane after all! Thanks for commenting, I sure hope this helps!

  • Trevor says:

    Shaun. You are one of the few who seems to truly get what I am going through. That question of what do you want to do and what do you love to do was answered, by me in the last year or so, by simply stating “it doesn’t matter because no one will let me do it.” You get it and you record that state of being in a flash of clarity that I am not sure helps or hurts more right now but that I love to read. Thanks.

  • Ann says:

    I’m really intrigued by your explanation of the dark side of dreams. I really don’t understand why we give up. We are so good at pushing aside deep cravings we have and settling for something we know is not at all what we desire.

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