But you don’t. You feel worse! I thought that as an old(er) youth worker (20 years in the biz and counting!), I had had more than a few moments of ‘this is IT!’ But this week proved me wrong.
I was in the car, chatting with my mate Martin. Everyone needs my mate Martin in their car at least once in their life. He digs away at stuff, and has this incredible knack of finding treasures you lost somewhere along the way, deep in the dark recesses of your heart. I was waxing lyrical (as is my want) about this new youth resource I’m writing. He wasn’t all that impressed.
“What does that mean? I’ve been working hard on this!” I fumed.
“I know. It’s probably good. I just wonder if it’s going be good enough. It sounds a bit ‘youth-work-by-numbers’. I don’t think it’s very you Rachel. I think you’ve got bigger dreams for young people than this.”
I was stunned into silence. Because he’s right. I do have big dreams for young people. Don’t we all? But even though I talk a lot about dreaming big in our youth ministry, the reality is that I still get consumed by the reality of everyday youth work that looks less like defying the stars and more like sorting out the blocked loo.
For the rest of the day I was plagued by the thought that maybe I don’t have it in me to rip up the rule book, listen deeply to young people and dream big with them for life in all its fullness. Ten years ago I was planning all the damage we could do to the darkness that oppresses young people. Now I mostly find myself on my knees, sobbing my heart out and feeling utterly powerless in the face of the latest teen suicide or story of peer-on-peer sexual abuse.
Do you ever ask yourself why you bother to dream? What’s the point of longing for more for the children God places before us? Do you ever look back at those moments when you know God gave you a dream, but now feel you’re handling them badly?
I wonder if that’s actually the place that all dreamers should get to.
I wonder if the path of the dreamer is pretty broken; strewn with disappointment and failure. But I wonder if, in fact, it’s the broken, barefoot path of suffering that leads us to seeing God’s glory.
Joseph, the great dreamer, handled the sharing of his dreams pretty badly. In his youthful enthusiasm, he made the dream of bowing bundles of wheat all about him. But God had bigger dreams for Joseph that included his family and his nation. God gives dreams, and his fulfilment of those dreams is always way bigger than we can dare to imagine.
I wonder if it’s the broken, barefoot path of suffering that leads us to seeing God’s glory
So what’s your dream for the children and young people you serve? What’s your dream for the youth of the nation and the world? Not the one you save for: “Turn to the person next to you and tell them your dream”, but that really gut-wrenching one that has no hope in hell of working, unless God gives and fulfils it?
When we look at Joseph’s life, it can seem as though everything that happens to him is random. It begins so well with a stunning coat and a powerful dream, but then he is abused, sold into slavery, falsely accused, abandoned and imprisoned. We could say: “Now let’s see what comes of these dreams” (Genesis 37:20).
But a closer look reveals that every struggle and challenge Joseph faced drew him closer to the fulfilment of the dream God gave him as a teenage boy, but, more importantly, drew him into a deeper relationship of trust with God. Joseph had never interpreted a dream in his whole life. He held on to a faith that God, the dream giver, could do anything, so whether he was speaking to prisoners or pharoahs, he sought to speak out God’s dream.
Sometimes we treat faith like IQ, or a talent like being musical, as if it’s an inherent thing we’re either born with or not. But the Bible says that faith is trust, and it’s trust in what God can do, not in what we have done or could ever do.
Our crazy, reckless, awesome dreams for young people, that are in line with God’s purposes, are based on a growing trust in our great dream-giver God. And our great privilege in all of this is that we get to be the ones who stand with prisoners and pharaohs and say: “I can’t make any of this happen, but I know the one who can, and I’m willing to ask him to do the impossible.”
Maybe today your great act of trust will be to dream. To find your free head space place, and jot down all the stuff you’d love to change or eradicate, or create or change, or start or close down, or invent or say or pray for. To capture the heart-cry of the Father who calls young people to deeper and bigger things.
I’ll be joining you.
“God, you’ve made me a dreamer. Sometimes I fear that these dreams you give me will come to nothing. But I trust that you can do the impossible, so I’m willing to keep asking and keep dreaming, however it makes me look or wherever it takes me. All for your glory.”