Today is my birthday. Which, with the possible exception of New Year’s Day, is the day I’m most inclined to assess what I’ve done with my life. I’ve learned a few things in my (largish number) years on this planet. Perhaps the most important is not to follow my dream. Does that sound like a glass half empty? Actually, there’s a part two that makes it more like a glass overflowing:
Don’t follow your dreams, follow the One who made your dreams.
The problem isn’t in pursuing our dreams, it’s in doing so with no sense of how to attain them—or what they should look like in the end. A shockingly high percentage of the world’s most “successful” people confess to being miserable. This, I believe, is because they’ve succeeded not in attaining their dreams, but in constructing a crude imitation of them.
God plants a dream inside each of us while we’re still in the womb. But it’s only a seedling. And it’s not until we look back that we fully grasp what it and we ourselves (the two are inseparable) truly look like. If we’ve followed the Dream Maker’s plan, it will be beautiful and startlingly original. If we’ve followed our imitation of it, it will be unsatisfying and ruthlessly predictable.
I was 23 when my father died, and was busily trying to construct a makeshift version of my dreams. So when my mother asked if I wanted the San Diego franchise my father had invested in—for a patented security system that makes alarms go off when store tags are not removed—I said, “No! I’m an artist, not a businessman! I’m going to make movies!”
But movies are expensive. I tried off-and-on for thirty years to raise the money to make my movies, but never could. Along the way, some wonderful things happened—I met the Dream Maker, met my wife, and met the two little girls who had been waiting patiently for us to get together so they could be born. But I never managed to make those movies.
Then one day I did some research on the franchise my dad had invested in. By now, my share would have been worth roughly $600 million dollars.
That could have financed a lot of movies.
But the Dream Maker knows an infinite number of ways back to the dream. Here’s one: I gave up the movie idea in 2005, moved my family to Cincinnati, Ohio; served at a church until the recession decimated their budget and they had to let me go; formed a production company funded by church members; became friends with a businessman who asked if I had any unfulfilled dreams, and replied, “Funny you should ask…”
That fulfilled dream (movie) is due to be released next fall.
So, here’s my birthday wish for you: that you would learn more and more every day not to follow your dreams, but instead to
follow the One who made your dreams.