The Only Dream that Matters

by Andy Wood on January 10, 2011

in Following Your Passion, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle

It was one of those eye-opening days, I guess.  Back to school time for me.  I was living north of Dallas, and still involved in youth ministry.  I taught a Monday night Bible Study that served as the centerpiece of the ministry, and on this particular night I passed out blank paper with a special request:  List, in order, the five things it would take to make you perfectly happy.

How would you answer that?

I really thought I knew what the answers would be – a lot of selfish stuff like cars, a driver’s license, money, or popularity.  But what I heard taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.  Here are some of their actual answers:

…parents to be more understanding…

that my sisters and I wouldn’t fight…

not to yell at my mom…

have a boyfriend that loves and cares for me…

to witness more…

having a closer friend…

having someone else in my life…

be closer to my brothers and parents…

no fighting with my brothers…

have all my friends being Christians…

to have a close Christian friend….

I have repeated this little experiment often over the years, with the same results.

Look deep enough and long enough into a person’s heart to find their pain or most authentic passion, and you will discover what is probably the most important word in the English language.  It surfaces every single time someone comes to me for counseling.  It lies at the heart of every single emotion, almost every crisis experience, and every single problem that people can experience.  This word is the source of your self-image and the ultimate secret to long-term happiness and fulfillment.

It isn’t pleasure.

It isn’t money or possessions.

It isn’t popularity or general awesomeness.

You’ve probably guessed by now – the word is relationships. Your life is the sum total of all your relationships – with God, with yourself, and with other people.  And the simple truth is, as your relationships go, so goes your life.  If your relationships are strong and healthy, your life will be strong and healthy.  If your relationships are happy and satisfying, then your life will be happy and satisfying.  On the other hand, if your relationships are hurting and broken, then your life will be hurting and broken.

If it wasn’t for relationships, you would never experience anger, jealousy, loneliness, fear, resentment, grief, or conflict.  If it wasn’t for relationships, you also wouldn’t experience love, security, fulfillment, unity, joy, forgiveness, or ecstasy.

Somewhere along the way, if only for a season, most of us find a way to stumble over that.  And surprisingly enough, it’s our own dreaming that can get us in trouble.  Sometimes we do that in the pursuit of the “blessings” that blind us to their real value.  Sometimes it’s in Cell Block Nine-To-Five that we lose sight of relationships.  Sometimes it’s in the climbing of own ambitious mountains that we forget where the real treasures are.

But what good are the things, the success, or the view from the mountaintop when there is no one to share it with because in our pursuits we’ve left them all behind?

In this season of goal-setting and realignment, maybe it’s time to reset your “dream thermostat.”  Here are two ways to start; both are very simple.

First, if you have ever written down any goals, resolutions, or whatever (if you haven’t written them down, why not?), go beyond the dream and also write the answer to this question:  Why is this important to me?  Don’t stop answering that until you get to the reason(s) that has to do with relationships.

Second, to reset your dream thermostat, answer the question I originally posed to the teenagers in Prosper:  List, in order, the five things it would take right now to make you perfectly happy.

What you will find is that in this life, the dreams that most fuel your passion and the resolutions that actually last beyond a couple of weeks are the ones that have something to do with giving and receiving love.  No less than the Lord Jesus Himself understood this.  When asked what the greatest (most ambition-satisfying) commandment in the Law was, He didn’t bat an eye:

“’You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

It all comes down to loving and being loved.  And intuitively we know this.  When people are standing around your coffin and the last prayer is about to end, nobody will be thinking about commandments kept or accomplishments rendered.  It’s all about who you loved and who loved you – starting with the Lord.

“No man is an island,” John Donne said.  You seek to prove him wrong at your own peril.

John O’Callaghan said that “the only dreams that matter are the ones you have when you’re awake.”  What he didn’t mention, but I think understands, is that the only time you’re truly awake is when you know without question that you are loved.

Maybe it’s time for that wake-up call.

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