God gave us dreams. Dreams are wonderful, dynamic, purposeful and inspiring. Dreams light up the night and make our toes tingle, get our hearts going and blood pumping. So real we can taste them. But then we turn around and make a critical error, putting weight to the opinions of others, giving others power over our dreams. Dreams come from God. Inspiration, in agreement with scripture, is God-breathed. You can’t shop around for a bunch of people to agree with you or to see what you see or feel what you feel. If anything, this exile here in Babylon has sharpened my sense of spiritual discernment in recognizing I am, in fact, Tunisian. My language is foreign and my ways are unknown here. Moving forward in your ministry, following your dream, is almost always a lonely path. Those who succeed usually have two things in common: (1) people laughed at them and (2) they didn’t care.
In the history of my life,
no one has ever invested themselves in making my dreams come
true. No one. Not once. The basic problem with dreams, or with
vision—as we might say in reference to our spirituality—is these
are usually things that cannot be seen. They are things only you
see. Things only you feel. They are convictions, things you
yourself know to be true and things you and perhaps you alone
are willing to invest in. Over the years, I’ve helped just about
everybody I can think of do just about everything you can think
of. I’ve helped friends plant churches, I’ve helped friends with
their careers. I invested four years developing my now ex-wife’s
music, another ten years invested in a friend’s mass
choir. I’ve designed websites and proposals and gone to meeting
after meeting. Lately I found myself begging—begging—a friend to
let me help him achieve his goals while he blew me off and went
about making amateur mistakes. And the phone keeps ringing with
people looking for my help, help they want as cheap as they can
buy it. But not one of these people, not a single one, has ever
invested even a single moment in my goals, in my dreams. Not one
of these people have ever even asked me what my goals are
or how they could help. These people, most of whom are people I
love dearly, are what therapists describe as “cupboard raiders”:
people who come over your house, walk into your kitchen and just
start eating you out of house and home. Like children, they are
all take and no give. And any dream, any vision, you may have is
at best tolerated for the sake of their getting what they want,
but it’s not something they are willing to invest in.
Investing in someone else’s vision is tough to do. By definition, a vision is for you: you’re the only one who can see it. But we not only see visions, we experience them. You don’t just see yourself doing something, achieving something, you experience it, viscerally, in the pit of your stomach. It has shape and form and substance. It is absolutely real to you. The eye rolls and impatience you experience when sharing your vision with others makes you not want to share it.
"Then Joseph told his brothers. 'Listen,' he said, 'I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.' When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, 'What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" —Genesis 37:9-11
Telling people your dreams, your vision, can make them angry.
They can receive messages from your vision that aren’t intended,
resent those that are, and, as the bible demonstrates time and
again, shoot the messenger.
Who you can share a vision with is dependent largely on the
status of your relationship with those people. Joseph was
certainly related to his brothers, and perhaps, on some level,
his brothers liked or even loved their little brother. But they
had no respect for him. They had no respect for the Lord’s
obvious anointing on him and they were jealous of him. Telling
people your dreams can, likewise, reveal the status of
your relationship with them. How people respond to your dreams,
your vision, will tell you, exactly, what they think of you and
where you stand with them.
All my life I’ve found it very curious to be blessed with so many friends. But of those dozens of friends, some of them cherished, close friends and even family, I can count, on one hand, the number of people who take me seriously. Friendship without respect is absolutely meaningless. Many of us—and I’ve been just as guilty of this as anyone else—take the warmth and security of friendship without investing meaningfully in these people in any measurably significant way. In fact, it seems to me the friendlier we are, the more we love someone, the more permission we give ourselves to not take them seriously. Familiarity breeds contempt, the fox from Aesop’s The Fox and The Lion said. With the breakdown of formality comes a kind of playful erosion of someone’s dignity and sense of self. As those barriers break down, we lose sight of who these people actually are. And, though we may love these folks dearly, we’ve crossed boundaries that prevent us from acknowledging why we liked these people in the first place: their uniqueness, their gifting, their place in the world. Ironically, the more we love, the less we respect. And, consequently, the more we allow people into our lives, into our selves, the more of their respect we trade for their intimacy and friendship.
Which is likely why I’ve gotten very stand-offish over the years. There’s a lot of people here in Ourtown running around saying things like, “Oh, I know him,” eye roll. But they don’t know me. They don’t know a thing about me. Here I am, week after week, preaching to thousands across the country and beyond our shores, and these folk, who have no idea at all about this ministry, are running around town talking about how they “know” me. When I am treated disrespectfully, I tend to back off and close down. Not out of ego, or even because I feel I’m being harmed. Jesus commanded us, in Matthew chapter 10, to not waste time with people who don't take us seriously, who don't appreciate our efforts. We are warned, over and over, chapter after chapter, to not hang around people who blaspheme God. Treating me poorly blasphemes God. It says, “God is a liar,” because He has revealed truth through me, through this ministry. If I know you have no respect for that, and I continue to pal around with you, then I'm not being responsible or even faithful to God. “Oh, yeah, I know him.” Nine and one-half out of every ten people who might say that are lying. They have met me. They vaguely know I serve some function. But there’s maybe three people in this entire city who can actually claim they know me. The rest are just church folk awash in ignorance.
The farmer Eshai (Jesse) thought he knew his son, but he had no clue who David was. Worse, he wasn’t even trying to know who David was. Like so many of our parents, he just assumed he knew. But, the truth was, Jesse had no respect for David. When the prophet Samuel came calling, telling Jesse God would select a king from among his sons, Jesse was disobedient to God. Jesse was supposed to assemble his sons—all of them—before Samuel. But Jesse left David out in the field. Jesse arrogantly supplanted God’s wisdom with his own—helping God out, speaking for God, making God’s decisions for him [I Samuel 16]. The record does not show, but I am persuaded Jesse loved David very much—but had no respect for him, for the promise of God or the anointing on David’s life.