28 April 2009

Dreams Redux

Thanks to everyone for the great thoughts on my last post.

Having done some more thinking and mucking around in my head, I'm realizing that this is more of an issue of head vs. heart than it is about me not knowing what the answers are to what we should make of our dreams and what that means about following them.

My head, I think, agrees with much of what you all said. I especially felt like Heather's comment reflects where my head is at (I won't recap it here because she said she's posting about it on Friday, but you can check the comments on the last post to read it). When I think of things this way, God is like a military commander who trusts his ground commanders: He says that we have to strive for certain objectives but he gives us a lot of freedom as to how to go about them. I think that he might have a more specific will for certain individuals in certain situations, but he reveals that in a special way, in those situations.

I think this is definitely the way I feel about writing (as an example of one of my dreams). So many writers say that God has called them to write, specifically, and I haven't had that experience. I don't feel like God has told me to stop writing, or not to write. Instead, writing is something that I love and find important and pursue and use to convey truth about God and this world. I could probably do that in other ways, but this is the one that works for me, right now.

The hitch is this: I may write and write and write and never, ever be published the way I want to be. While learning to write well as a goal in and of itself has become much more important to me over the last several months, I'd be a terrible liar if I said that I never hope to have some of my work published. It seems inherent to writing to want publication: if you think you're saying something important, don't you almost always want to be able to share it with others?

But here's the kicker: if I felt like my dream came directly from God (instead of as a product of my choices, even though I want to ), I would feel like I had a much greater chance of success of seeing publication than I do if it's just me. God acts so definitively and pointedly in favor of the things he specifically wants (I'm thinking about all the battles he helped Israel win that they should have lost). With God not only on my side, but on the sidelines instead of in the bleachers or watching at home on TV, writing is safer. Everything else I want to pursue is safer too.

So my heart wants my dreams to come straight from God. If they do, what could there possibly be to worry about? If they don't--if they're from me, even if I'm choosing to follow His objectives as best I possibly can, lots of things can go wrong. These things, mind you, could have nothing to do with me, my motives, desires, etc.

As a corollary to all of this, I struggle more with my dreams when they're not specifically God/Christian oriented. To keep on the writing example, God doesn't show up explicitly in everything I write. Sometimes I write to take readers on an emotional journey and not necessarily to introduce them to God directly. While I don't think that's bad (a single piece of literature cannot, after all, encompass every aspect of life well), and while I know that part of living a truly Christian life is seeking excellence (or awesomeness ;) ) in everything we do, I wonder if I should be turning these works into something else . . . even when the only way I can think of to make them more explicitly Christian also makes them cheesy as cheesy can be, and I don't think God wants me to make my work BAD in order to tack his name onto it.

In the end, I want to be safe. I want my dreams all wrapped up in their nice little packages, ready to be unrolled as soon as I commit myself to them, as soon as I'm good enough to be the person who receives them. While I know that it's not like that, my heart is so afraid. And that's where I struggle--my head says that what my heart wants isn't true, my heart panics, and tries to explain itself in words my head can understand. That's never a good thing: hearts work best when they use their own syntax.


heather said...

Oh, Sarah! I have walked this path (and have posted about it in the past). You are so right--we want to feel "called" to write because it's a hard business with all these rejections. But if we're called to write, we can hang on.
I just don't think that's theologically sound. I'm not saying God does or doesn't "call" people to this task or that, but that's not what we cling to. And you are on to something there.
Yes, it is a good thing to desire publication, I think. Who doesn't want to communicate these stories we have? They mean so much to us! (What entrepreneur doesn't want costumers? What preacher doesn't want a congregation?) If our writing loves God and our neighbor, we want to communicate it. Yes, I write for myself, but I write for others, too. And this is a struggle because it is so dang hard to get published!
A friend and I the other day "lamented" the support we receive about our writing. Sometimes we want someone to say, you can't write; you won't ever make it; just stop. In other words, we want someone else to make a decision for us. (But, honestly, would I listen?)
You are talented--I see that on your blog, and I've seen it in your fiction. I don't know what God has in store for you, and I can't promise that it will be on some large scale, but as long as you obey him and submit to him, he will glorify himself through you, draw you to him, and draw others to him through you. And, yes, this is hard for me to accept because, to be honest, I want so much more (more in my terms, not God's).
(Oh, and I got my dates wrong--I'm posting on wisdom and godly decision making next Friday, not this, at the Tapestry blog, but I'll have a link from my blog.)

Sarah said...

Heather, you remind me of a story I'd forgotten...last summer, Dave and I visited one of his best friends. This guy's wife happened to be traveling, but we got to spend time with him. At one point, we were talking about the future and this friend said, "Yeah, God told my wife she's going to write books someday."

Something about it bothered me and so I talked to Dave about it later. I basically asked him if I shouldn't write because God had never told me that (I don't think I really would have, but I wanted him to confirm it). He laughed and said, "No...'God told me to' is basically Foursquare*-speak for 'I really want to and I'm hoping God is endorsing it.'"

Yeah, it is easier for us to believe in our dreams if we believe God ordained them. And I'm looking forward to your post, whether it's this week or next!

*Foursquare as in the denomination of churches...Dave's denomination, currently mine, and this friend's as well.

christianne said...

Wow. I feel like I understand so much better where you are with the head/heart distinction you made. Your head can work through all these arguments and see the different perspectives, but your heart wants the assurance of God's calling you to do something so that you know it will all be okay; it will all happen the way it's supposed to.

What if it all happened the ways it's supposed to, even without the direct calling into a particular direction? I think that might be a rather weird question, and I'm not sure what I think of it myself, either, but it just popped into my head.

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh! How I loved this little phrase...

hearts work best when they use their own syntax.

Joelle said...

And what a beautiful heart you have, dear Sarah. I love listening to it (and your brilliant mind). Thank you for writing, for this reader is always feels as if she's received a gift. May you know with the truest knowing how God invites you to write.

Tammy said...

Wow Sarah, you have SOO hit on some things here. You have repeated the same words that I said to Nathan when I started back to school. I think I may have even mentioned this to Christianne.

I said, "I know I can go back to school if I choose to. I know I can eventually get a job in counseling if I choose to, but how do I KNOW that God has called me to do this? And, I have this mindset about my own failure when I don't see God's stamp of approval on it.

So i battled back and forth about this. My fear was this...if God is giving me the ability to choose for myself but this is not necessarily His divine plan, then is He going to fix the problems and set backs that I am going to face along the way?

Sarah, I still don't have the answer to some of my questions. I still don't know if I am walking in God's steps or not. I just decided to move forward.

I am in NO way suggesting to you to do that, what i am saying is I can truly identify with your war. I am facing a huge school debt (at this point with or without God). I am a very calculating person when it comes to money matters. I am very serious about money management and I don't feel safe jumping into certain long term debts.

So my debate remains, yes God CAN help me, but if this is not His divine purpose, WILL He help me.

I don't have the answer to those questions. I just decided to follow my heart. These decisions are tough and I am not sure that I will ever get over the regret of feeling I am out of the will of God because I felt called into the ministry and never went.

I suppose I gave up hope to a degree and settled into a hopeless frame of mind. I tell myself, at this point nobody is benefiting from my existence except for me. I suppose this made my decision a little easier. I sorta jumped on the Jonah ban wagon and said, "who cares, I'm going the wrong way anyhow." Again, I am certainly NOT recommending this at all. I am just spitting out some ways where I truly understand how you feel.

Peace on your journey my friend.......

kirsten said...

i've updated myself now, reading through the previous post and comments, and now here.

i love that you're asking these questions: struggling with them, examining them from different angles, not taking a bit of it for granted.

while i don't have any answers either (wouldn't it be cavalier if i claimed to possess such precious gems?), i think it's God-honoring to live the questions. i have no doubt in my mind that you're a gifted writer, sarah.

i took a 13-week course at church that culminated a few months ago. perhaps you've heard of the truth project. it is a video/classroom series that examines God's design for various aspects of our world and how we are to live and move in it. in examining work and the sabbath, the instructor delved into God's original design for the sabbath (i do have a point here, i promise). while i can't afford to go into the background here that he did, what it came down to was this: the sabbath is a day when we "put our toys down", the implication being that the work that we're doing (i might even go so far as to say "the work that we're meant to do") should feel like play. that's going to look different from person to person. i met someone yesterday who actually finds number-crunching tremendous fun!! thank God for people like that. while not everything we do in our "play" will be overtly evangelistic, while not everything we possess a giftedness for is something we'll execute perfectly, i do think it's still God-honoring to live out those things before Him. sometimes, i think we live out these things before Him as questions, as in we don't know what ultimate purpose it will serve or how it honors God or why we like doing it so much or if it will serve any good in the world at all.

i'm not trying to dismiss the questions in saying this (because i really do think they're important to ask and wrestle with), but ultimately the purpose our work and our dreams serve is up to Him. we have *no idea* how he will weave our dreams and our work into the larger tapestry that is His unfolding story for the world. we may never know it, we may never see it.

but don't you think that as a Father, God gets a huge kick out of watching His children play?? ;o)

keep holding these questions before him, girl. and keep playing, because we love it around here!!

Anonymous said...

God likes to live in paradox.
What if He calls you to something and does not allow you to obtain it? Is that okay? Where does that leave you (and you with Him)?

The Gyrovague said...


There is so much wisdom inherent in the life of the creative. God expresses himself through wisdom and uses creation to do it.

God, being creation, uses the creative, being you, to express his creatitvity. All acts of creation reflect back on God. You do not have to use it and write all "Christanese", but you use it to satisfy that divine spark, that creative impuse that is inveterate in your spiritual, psychological and physical D.N.A. (OK, maybe not physical DNA, but I needed a 3rd to make that work!)

One of the most tragic misunderstandings in the church today goes something like this:

"Wow, you are a gifted musician, you should play in the praise band"

"Sure, I will be glad to"

Then the musician is playing in the band until he feels a twinge of disconent that he is disconnected and that he has more to offer. He feels guilty about writing secular music and never reaches his full potential... that is Crap... just crap.

Great creativity reflects God and his glory inside, or outside the church. Just staring at a Monet, a Picasso, or a great poet reminds me of that.

You are a great writer. Dont ever stop, it all glorifies God.

Anonymous said...

Sarah: have you ever read The Alchemist? It's an interesting take on this very issue.


Sarah said...

Hi all--I wanted you all to know that I'm reading through these and deeply appreciating your wisdom and love and sharing. I don't have much to add in response, but thank you so much for loving me here.