Theatre gal now working in full-time ministry. Here to encourage you as you figure out a life lived pursuing Jesus.
I distinctly remember one of the first times I realized that my dreams were not a guarantee. It was an overcast, cool Virginia winter day. I was driving my little silver coupe down the highway, processing a breakup I had gone through a few weeks prior. It had been a very amicable parting, but still I found my brain spiraling in an existential whirlwind.
Driving back to my apartment, a scary reality began to dawn on me. I could potentially never meet someone I want to marry.
Now, I know that statistically speaking, this isn’t necessarily likely. But it is possible. I could very well live my entire life without meeting a man that I believe would be a good life partner. I tried to imagine my future as a woman forever single, and greatly struggled to embrace this identity. It was soon clear the major idolization I had placed on marriage and motherhood.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve dreamt about the days when I would get to be a wife and a mom. I had in many ways built my identity around the presumption that, one day, these dreams would come true.
I vividly remember walking into my apartment, sitting on my couch, and spilling out my heart before God. Soon, I began to cry (like, full-on ugly cry). I was mourning the dreams that I had given too great of a foothold in my heart. I knew I needed to surrender those desires into God’s hands, and trust that He is good, whether He brought those dreams to fruition or not. And so, that’s what I prayed.
But do you know what’s a little sad about this story? After this, I began to anticipate meeting my “person” even more than I had before. After all, how often have we heard, “It was when I stopped looking that they finally showed up!” Or, “I told God I was okay with being single for forever and within a month, I was dating my husband!”
I think many of us have started to frame this concept of surrendering our desires as a type of rewards system. We give up what we want, and in turn, God gives us those dreams or something even better, like a dog receiving a treat after obeying a command.
I fell into this trap. I scribbled verses like Psalm 37:4 in my journal, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” figuring the desires given would be a better job, a hunky husband, and an Instagram-worthy bungalow.
So, after I had that talk with the Lord in my apartment, I was half-expecting to turn the corner and find my man. After all, I had put it in the Lord’s hands, so now it was His turn to follow through.
Y’all, let me tell you what I wish someone had told me that winter: we do not receive rewards for surrendering that which we should not be carrying in the first place. Worldly desires are not your prize for obedience, your prize is attaining an intimacy with and likeness to Jesus.
Surrender is part of the recognition that the desires of our flesh, as good-natured as they may sometimes seem, fall second to the complete submission to the will of our Father. This doesn’t mean that your dreams will never come to you. We are constantly transitioning from seasons of valleys to mountains. There will be blessings and there will be hardship.
But from the early beginnings of Genesis, God is clear in stating that He is a jealous God. He demands nothing less than the whole of our hearts and devotion. We were created for nothing less.
Last summer, I faced the beginning of a new journey struggling with my mental health. I was scared and shaken, but luckily surrounded with great support. As I sought God in those months, a clear theme began to arise. Surrender. Rest. Let go. Take my yoke upon you.
This, unfortunately, goes against my nature. I like to be the one who sits in the driver’s seat. I like to guess the endings of movies before they arrive. I want assurance and answers. But again, I think back to early Genesis, and the first command God gives Moses on Mount Sinai:
You shall have no other gods before me.
Including my dreams.
Nothing but Christ before me.
Here’s the beautiful promise that comes with that: God will show up. He will not fail. That we can be sure of. Most everything else is followed with a question mark.
I still have hope in my dreams. I want to be a wife and a mom. I want to write and stand on a stage in front of people. I want complete healing in my mental health. But I also set these desires at the foot of the cross, knowing that should none of these come to pass, my identity is not shaken, and my heart can still be fully satisfied.
I encourage you to dig in today and uncover what idols you’ve wrapped your identity around. Often these look like good and health desires.
If you’re unsure of what these idols might be, ask yourself these questions:
01: What is something I cannot imagine not being part of my future?
02: What areas of my life am I currently giving my time, attention, and energy to?
03: Would I be okay if I lived the rest of my life without these things included?
Remember as you ask these questions, that the God of the Bible is a Father who loves you, and who wants to give you good gifts. We merely lay these desires down in the acknowledgement that there is truly nothing better for us than His presence.