For many of us who linger on the edge of our dreams, we begin to wonder what is tethering us, what is holding us back from the big leap. There are many reasons why we might hesitate, there are many fears we might have.
Last month I had a long talk with my husband about a ‘dream’ I wanted to pursue. I knew I needed him on board – with our time, our resources and for him to be a cheerleader rather than a victim to my dream seeking. After a long conversation, he told me,”Do it! This is a leap of faith for me but I trust you, so do it!”.
There is nothing like a wide open gate to suddenly paralyze you from bounding out into the field. You’ve longed for tall grasses under your toes and wind whipping all the way to the ends of your hair, but now you think….maybe I”ll just close this gate and go back into my safe little home.
I’ve been wrestling with my dreams. I’ve been knocking them down, twisting my motives, seeking a way out or through. I’ve been wrestling with God, asking him for signs, for affirmations, to make it easier to commit to. I’ve been held back by so many fears.
I’m tired of doing things at half-capacity. I see it in other women and I tell them to rise up, exhaust their gifts and their talents, that is what God has MADE you for! But I don’t follow my own advice. And now that I had the go ahead on the home front I suddenly was feeling like a tiny, under-equipped child trying to run the race with the pros. All the reasons I piled up on the ‘reasons not to do my dreams’ list are suddenly compiling into one: I have no confidence in myself. I feel like a fraud, like I’m not equipped, like I’m just going to miss the mark. I have fear it will all end in disappointment.
I gave myself a deadline to make a decision – to chase this dream or put it to rest. I set out a checklist of ways God could check in with me and affirm me. Then I realized, even if I didn’t get one of these designated signs, I would probably not be able to let my dream go. I would still let it simmer, dabbling without committing.
So, I surrender. I got home from a morning at the park, stood in my front entrance, my kids running up the stairs and I said out loud “I have no confidence in myself, but I have all the confidence in you Lord. Where I lack, you will supply. Where I think I need to do more, you will say it is good. This is bigger than me, which means it is the work of your hands. I will do what I feel you have called me to do. I will do it.”
Our fears might vary from season to season, but these are some common ones that fence in our dreams . . . .
Picking the wrong dream
As someone who pursued an education and career only to leave it eight years later, I can relate to feeling like I’ve chosen the ‘wrong dream’. The fact is, that specific education and career experience was exactly where I was supposed to be. It refined specific skills and gifts in me that would have been under-used in any other career I desired.
I love the saying ‘nothing is a loss to God’ – he uses everything. He is constantly pruning us, through every season. It is painful, we feel like it is wrong, but after we can look back and see the fruit that was able to grow.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 NIV
We must first believe that God works ALL things for good. We might look at choices as mistakes, but God already had a plan for our life in this exact scenario. He already has a plan to use it ALL for good. As Cathy Ostaphchuk pointed out at Gather Women, we can look at the story of Eve. God’s grace is bigger than our mistakes, he has a plan to turn ALL things for good.
Second we must set criteria for ourselves in how we choose things. The fear of picking the wrong dream is part trusting God with the ‘ALL’ of our life, and part not wanting to waste our time and resources on something that we don’t perceive as fruitful. I loved Louise’s advice in the collaborative interview about bringing her dreams to a conversation with her husband first and praying about it. We need to filter our decisions through God’s promises, our faith values, our family, and our time. There are so many good things in this world, but only a few great things and being in a position to choose is both a luxury and a refining process.
How will it work
The dreaming process is very drawn out. First, we need the ‘what’ our dream is. Then we need to assess it all through our motives, our ‘why’. Then once we are at the ‘when’, where starting is imminent, we begin to stress about the ‘how’. How will we pay bills? How will we find the time? How will we know exactly what to do? So many of us can relate to this fear of losing our stability, our security, our resources.
My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19
To be very open, this is a tough one for me. I mean, I love the idea of stepping out in faith, and obedience, and knowing God will take care of my ‘needs’ but I am really attached to my wants. It is a sad thing that this would prevent me from taking a risk, especially when it would further my use in the kingdom of God. While I don’t believe God intends us to be foolish with the resources he has given us, he does intend us to make use of them and to hold them loosely. God is placing more and more truths on my heart about exhausting myself and my resources in this world to bless others, to serve him, to walk closer to him. It means giving up our worldly treasures for heavenly ones.
God wants us to live as if he has taken care of the ‘how’ so we can spend our efforts on furthering his kingdom rather than securing our own.
It’s not perfect
Maybe we can get to the point where our dreams are in action, but we struggle to present them, or finalize them, or share them. We want them to be perfect. The struggle with perfectionism keeps us from moving forward with our dreams, with growing our gifts, and with walking by faith.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good – Genesis 1:31
When God created the world, when God created man, when God created woman he looked at them and said ‘very good’. We are ‘very good’, and God calls us complete. God doesn’t call us to be perfect, that’s something we impose on ourselves. That is a limiting mindset.
On one hand we are called to do our work with excellence and dedication. On the other hand, our definition of what that ‘excellence’ looks like can be paralyzing. As Brene Brown points out, perfection is shame-based. It is a checklist we can follow that will cause others to perceive us as flawless, without blame, without shame. But God doesn’t call us to do work unto others without showing any outward weaknesses. No, he calls us to do our work with all our hearts, unto him.
Where we would rely on ourselves to meet all the checkboxes so others can perceive us a certain way, we can rely on God to drown us in his grace and work from a place of love and worship rather than shame and striving.
I’m not confident
Feeling like I wasn’t confident has held me back from so many things in life. From something simple like wearing an item of clothing to something bigger like getting up on stage. Through the years of blogging I’ve struggled with this as well and then something changed. I listened to a podcast by Jeff Goins on this subject and he pointed out that confidence is not required to do the work. It is an outcome of doing the work. In my case, five years ago I started writing online and would have never called myself a writer. I was just doing the work a ‘writer’ does. Now, the volume increases a little more each time I call myself ‘a writer’.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him – Jeremiah 17:7
What we lack in confidence in ourselves we can make up in obedience to and hope in God. If we only ever did the things we had confidence in, we wouldn’t have much need for God. We also wouldn’t have much room to grow, to stretch out our limbs and bear some new fruit.
Discerning our fears. . . .
We are called to fear God. We are reminded that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But when we talk about fears in our daily life, it is rarely the holy notions and more the negative limiting emotions. We are shoving a lot of definitions into one box called ‘fear’ and coding the whole thing red to declare that it is full of negative outcomes.
There are many Hebrew words to describe the many types of fear. For instance, there are fears that are ‘projected or imagined’; fear of negative consequences’; fear of breaking God’s laws; and a fear associated with being in a place of profound reverence.
Some fears are unhealthy, and some are where we meet God. When we step into a place where we have this fear that makes us feel small, and helpless, and that God is just so present and so needed, we can feel that reverent fear. Where our dreams bring us to a place that is ‘bigger than us’ we can immerse ourselves in this fear and awe for what God and what has called us to.
April has been a month all about ‘dreaming’. We have so much to share with you on this topic, so join us along with Elsie Road Magazine on Thursday evening for a webinar, Dreaming for Christian Women.
APRIL 28th 7pm (PST)