My four-year old son has recently begun waking up and telling me about his dreams. “Mommy, do you know what I dreamed about last night? ” he says with excitement. “What?” I always ask in wonder, although I can almost always guess the dream’s major
theme. He is currently obsessed with super heroes, and so most nights he is Spiderman rescuing people from danger; Flash running super-fast to save someone; or Superman protecting people from some cruel enemy. His eyes sparkle and his forehead creases as he gives me the play-by-play of his dream with great detail and all seriousness. Then his little face will relax, as he sits back and begins to dream with his eyes wide open right in front of me. “When I am big…” he will proclaim, “I am going to be the ‘real’ Superman! I am going to be strong and fast, and I am going to help people and keep them safe!” The earnestness in his voice tells me his words are not to be taken lightly. I have a feeling that within these daydreams are the seeds of who he one day will be: a “super” man, who help people and keep them safe—perhaps minus the cape.
Watching him dream with his eyes wide open has been so inspiring to me: how he freely shares the desires in his heart and how he boldly believes what is not yet can someday be. He doesn’t know it, but he is re-teaching me something important through his bravery. For far too long, I have let fear rob me of my dreams. The desires of my heart have been held hostage by my fear of rejection. If I risked sharing my longings, would people laugh at me? Would they tell me I am silly or foolish or wrong? “Maybe, “ I thought, “so I think I will just keep them to myself.” What I believed to be possible was held captive by my fear of failure. If I come up short pursuing this possibility, what would that say about me? Would it be mean I am less than or lacking or languishing? “Perhaps,” I reasoned, “so I better stick to the things I know I can achieve.” The result of these fears has been a life lived within the snug, secure boundaries of safety—waiting patiently and passively for others and opportunities to give me permission to pursue the dreams hidden deep, deep, deep down inside of me.
I must admit there are some advantages to living this way. It certainly keeps disappointment at a minimum and heart break at bay. Furthermore, its fairly easy to go through life depending on yourself and staying in control of most everything. However, the trade-offs are significant and grave. Passion and adventure are pretty hard to experience when you are playing it safe. In addition, you largely miss out on the joy of partnering with others and the exhilaration of being empowered by God to do immeasurably more for His kingdom than you could ever do on your own. Trust me, I would know.
However, over the past few months, I have been tiptoeing out beyond my snug, secure boundaries of safety. I must admit it feels wonky and wobbly, but somehow, someway God has used the example of my son to reawaken my dormant ability to dream and to give me courage greater than my fears to pursue my longings.
In May I was sitting at a seminary graduation. They were announcing the statistics of how many people were going to graduate, when they declared approximately 160 men and 70 women were about to walk across that stage. The ceremony continued on, but I was stuck. I couldn’t get past the fact that there were more than two males for every one female receiving a diploma that day; that there more than two males for every one female who had been equipped to lead; that there were more than two males for every one female prepared (at least in my denomination) for ordained ministry. I thought that maybe this seminary was just an anomaly. However, after further research, I discovered this was just the norm. According to the most recent report of the Association of Theological Schools, women make up only 34.5% of students who are attending seminaries and 29% of students pursuing a Masters of Divinity (the standard degree for pastoral ministry). Among evangelical seminaries, the number of female students dips even lower to an average of 21% (see recent article by Sharon Hodde Miller). I know and celebrate the tremendous progress that has been made in empowering women for ministry, but sitting there that morning I could no longer ignore the tremendous gap that still exists in the number of women who are being encouraged and invested in to serve as leaders in the church.
Suddenly I began to dream with my eyes wide open for the first time in a long time. I felt I MUST find a way to be part of closing this gap—that my experiences had in fact uniquely prepared me to do just that. It was awkward and hard for me to admit this passion that was burning inside of me–to myself, let alone anyone else–so I started by sharing with the people closest to me. My old fears still taunted me as I started to open up, so I found myself qualifying my dream with phrases like, “This might sound silly but…” and “This is just a little thing…”. However, slowly but surely I have been bringing this dream inside of me into the light, opening up the possibility of this dream becoming a reality. This is my dream: I dream of making more room at the table for women to answer the call to ministry. I dream of facilitating mentorships and providing internships for women who are exploring their calling. Furthermore, I dream of providing scholarships for women to attend seminary.
A few weeks ago I wrote my first check to start saving toward this. It was a very small amount, but for me it was a big step toward pursuing this dream wholeheartedly. I plan to contribute to this fund each month and hope to one day invite other women to contribute as well. In the end it may only be enough to pay for one woman’s books each semester, but beyond this financial investment, my intent is that every recipient will know there are other women who are praying for her, supporting her, and cheering her on.
I will be honest with you—my fears of rejection and failure have not disappeared. However, they have been kicked out of the driver seat of my life into the back seat. Will others laugh at my longing? Probably, but I’ll take the laughing if it means I get to live out this passion God has placed inside of me. Will I fail? Maybe, but I’ll take that risk rather than missing out on the adventure of responding to God’s invitation to be a part of something bigger than me.
What about you friend? What have you been dreaming with your eyes wide open about? How is God inviting you to be a part of bringing something not yet into being? Where is your deepest passion meeting the world’s greatest need? Dream with me…what if together we broke out of our snug, secure boundaries of safety and dared to believe that the God who has placed these longings in our hearts can empower us to make them a reality? Can you imagine the impact for God’s kingdom that we could make if we let fear have its say, acknowledged that road will most certainly be difficult along the way, and then resolved, “I’m going to pursue this dream anyway”?
Thank you, “Super” Lincoln, for re-teaching me how to live this way.