I had a stimulating conversation with two of my oldest and dearest friends last night. It wasn't the kind of conversation that leaves you excited and 'raring to go'. Not that kind of stimulating. It was the kind that sits with you, seeping in...the kind that you can't get out of your head even when your nineteen-month-old is screeching from an ear infection and you're hosting a play date for some friends in the neighborhood.
What has the power to hold my attention even in the midst of daily life?
Well, it's actually several parts of our two-hour hangout time. The parts seemed disparate at the time - dreams, writing struggles, my desire to make a difference in the world. But, as they seep further into me, they're collecting in a common pool.
There was this from "Friend One":
"I've been thinking about dreams lately. I wanted to know what ya'll think: are we all meant to have one dream, or are some of us just born to wander?" (I'm paraphrasing here, of course.)
In general, we all agreed that it is a parent's job to help his or her child understand what he or she is made for. In the cases where parents give too little direction ("you can do anything", for example), we have each seen negative results - the 'wandering' I mention above. Yes, you may be able to do anything, but what are you meant to do? You certainly can't do everything - that's impossible. As an eighteen-year-old, twenty-year-old, twenty-five-year-old, you need help narrowing the field. That's where the parent comes in - we can act as mirrors, reflecting back what we see God doing in the hearts and lives of our kiddos.
This spun off into a philsophical conversation about destiny or calling. Is there one thing that we're supposed to find and then spend our lives pursuing? I chimed in:
"I spent a lot of years in my twenties looking for that magic answer. Some 'Word from the Lord' that would make everything clear. Ironically, he was silent a lot of the time. It felt like He had His thumb pressed down on me, holding me in place, preventing me from moving forward, until I got it. Until I learned the lesson(s) He had for me, in my heart first. Not because He's mean, but out of mercy. If I know one thing about God I know that He deals with the insides first - the externals come later. Otherwise, it would be like building a life on a broken foundation.
"And one of the things I learned was that calling, or destiny, or purpose, is not something He imposes on us from above. It's something He deposits in us when He creates us - some tiny reflection of His own longing. So, discovering your calling is, ultimately, about going internal. About digging deeper into your heart until you discover what you love, what you long for."
"Friend Two" added: "it's an uncovering, the process of discovering your dreams" (versus seeking something outside of yourself...like a treasure hunt or something...or some mystical search that does nothing but distract you from the real source, the place where God indwells you with desire).
There were many more comments as the night wore on. At some point I shared how I've been struggling with self-doubt this past week and wondering if choosing to write is the best path. As I was elaborating I said - in an offhand way - "but then the Lord spoke to me and gave me clarity. He showed me where to focus right now, which is on my novel. There are other things stirring in my heart - things that would affect others more immediately and directly, that would pull me out into the world more - but the call is clear: stay in this internally-focused place and write."
Going internal. There it was again.
Sometimes you have to dig deep in order to grow tall. Sometimes you have to die down in order to bud again. Sometimes you have to shrink your circle of influence ... well, for lots of reasons. Maybe to combat your own pride. Maybe to give you space to rest. Maybe to keep you safe in an especially tender season of healing.
And maybe - just maybe - you won't ever see the effect of focusing on the small space in front of you - the space that feels totally fruitless at times - but will have to do so anyway, knowing that your obedience will bear good fruit for His glory no matter what you do or do not see in your lifetime.
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life...." (Psalm 23:6)
That's a promise. A promise He will fulfill. Our job is to seek and follow; He does the rest.
So if you're wondering what you're made for and/or what your dream is, I encourage you: dig deep; go internal; get to know yourself. As you do, I promise you, you'll get to know Him.