Little boys always want to be fire fighters or policemen, or professional athletes when they grow up, but not me. I always wanted to be a lawyer. Weird, huh? I come from a long line of lawmen and people dedicated to the law. My great-great grandfather was a Texas Ranger and Smith County sheriff two centuries ago. My great-grandfather was a lawyer, as was my grandfather, as was my step-father. I came by it honestly (if that expression can be used for a lawyer- preemptive strike- you get used to doing that), but it was something more than that. The thought of arguing a case in front of a jury, wood-paneled courtroom and stern-faced, serious judge, carried a lot of romance for me. My whole high school, college, and law school career consisted of diligent preparation for my chosen profession. I was going to be the best trial lawyer in Texas. I did well in law school, got a job in a big city law firm, the whole deal. But, there was one problem.
About six months after beginning the trade, I realized that I didn’t like being a lawyer. I would get a big ol’ knot in my stomach every Sunday night at the thought of going to work the next morning. Many of my close friends loved it; I didn’t. I tried it many different ways, in several different firms, and I guess I got to be fairly good at it, but the dream of being a lawyer, at least as I had dreamed it, had died. I prayed that God would lead me to something else. For 9 years, He told me to keep after it. Then, I got the call to come to Grace.
A friend and I were talking the other day about how everyone has a dream that dies. For kids, it may be playing professional ball of some sort, or being some kind of musician, or being really good at something one just cannot master. It may be discovering that, although you’re the big fish in the small pond, there are massive lakes out there, and you’re actually a minnow in them. It may be the death of a relationship, or a set of friendships, because your life has changed and theirs has not, or all of you have grown in different directions. Even if you are really, really good at what you do, like a good athlete, your dream will die at some point: either you’re good enough to be a high school starter, but not to play for a Division I college; or, you’re good enough to make it to such a college, but not to start, or not make it to the pros, or you blow your knee out, or you have to retire from what you love at 35 years old. But, the dream will die at some point.
Every single one of our kids will have a dream that dies, many will have several. And, it will probably look like one of the things I’ve already mentioned. As parents, we have a front row seat to their pain, and their temporary loss of direction that follows, There’s no time when they need us more, but there’s also no greater opportunity to refocus on who they are and to whom they belong.
Often, it seems like our kids’ sense of identity, their worth, is caught up in that dream. They are “the pitcher,” “the quarterback,” “the ballerina,” “the straight-A student.” When it dies, their identities die, too. But, that’s the very point in time when God steps into that void and shows them that the dream was never who they were. The dream was an image, here today and gone tomorrow, while they are eternal image-bearers of Christ, heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven, and that their dreams have been, as C.S. Lewis says, rooting in the mud on the ground when all the while God wanted to give them a vacation by the sea.
No one can give them that perspective like a mom or dad. No one. A coach, or a youth pastor, or a teacher can reinforce it, but no one can convince them and inspire them to look to the Cross for their value like the ones who are closest to them, who they rely on the most. Which means, of course, that if our identity as parents is in being the mom or dad of the quarterback, or the ballerina, or the pitcher, or the smart kid, we had better repent of that and get Jesus back on the throne of our lives where He belongs quickly. Kids can smell your disappointment from a mile away, and they will take your disillusionment over the death of the dream as disappointment with them. Your response will be the aroma of life or the stench of death to them. Your job is to pull yourself together and to help them see that every dead dream is a painful portal through which God gets them to where He really wants them to be, to what He had for them all along.