Julia Foote believed in a dream. Literally, a dream. One apparently induced by fever. Her dream was that God had told her to preach. In mid-19th century America, this was a pretty outlandish claim. Women weren’t preachers. The obvious thing happened. She woke up from her fevered dream, told her friends, husband and pastor about it and was promptly reminded that it she was delirious.
In a wonderful post over at SheLoves Magazine, Joy Howard tells the story of Julia and her band of sisters, the ones who supported her through and through, believing her crazy story and urging her forward. They became a “hallelujah chorus,” the people saying “I believe in you. You can do this.”
Oh, how we need those people around us. Friends, if you do not have those people in your lives, get them—and fast.
But there is another thing at work here and it’s some mysterious blend of faith and inner resolve. In people who succeed at wildly improbable things, there is a common ability to take risk. They do it not because they believe that they can’t fail but because they don’t see failure as the end.
In educational theory, it’s called it a “growth mindset.” People who have a growth mindset believe that they grow and change. This is harder than it sounds, especially for adults who tend to get stuck believing we’re done being made. It’s easy for us to see that a child must fall in order to walk. It’s hard to apply that to our own adult falls, no matter how many quotes about courage we read.
The other day, a friend of mine described an ache in her gut, the desire to live her life differently. “It’s just that I realized I’ve been living a pretty safe life,” she said. This is, of course, the dilemma for almost everyone. We feel a tug towards something more but we are afraid to fail so we choose safety.
We don’t just look before we leap, we study the fall. We focus on the bottom, make sure we have a plan, a back-up plan and a soft landing place. By the time we’ve done all that, we’ve forgotten why we were making the jump in the first place—suddenly, the other side doesn’t even seem like the goal. We’ve become convinced that avoiding failure, not achieving success, was the goal all along. And of course, the easiest way to avoid failure is not to make the leap in the first place.
If we make our lives primarily about safety, we will spend all of our time analyzing, strategizing, dreaming and never really doing. Plans, goals and hopes only take us so far. At some point, we have to take a risk.
Here is a comfort, though: God is too big to fail. You might fail. You
might will make a mistake somewhere along the way. Things will probably be harder and take longer than you thought. But even then, God will go on, probably even weaving your mistakes into some beautiful new tapestry that was bigger and better than you’d imagined.
I don’t know what dream is on your heart, what hope is waiting to be born in you. But I do know that when we act with love, we act with God. And there is no act of love that is too small (or too big) for God to use.
So go ahead. Love deeply. Live deeply. Grab hold of a dream and see where it takes you.