Unbelievable. It's another graduation season! And, wow, has the world changed since I was the one "commencing."
But the commencement ceremony itself? Not so much. Same sweat-a-lot robes. Same funny, flat hats with that flapping tassel. And the same lofty "we will change the world...follow your dream" speeches. Inspired by the view from the top of Mount High School.
Sadly, many will look back later from the Valley of Reality and ask, "Whatever happened to those graduation dreams?"
That happy family. That fairy tale marriage. That fulfilling career. That flourishing future. How did my high hopes turn into broken dreams? Even nightmares.
Problem: it's a brand new season. But I'm the same old me. Carrying the same baggage that consistently sabotages my happiness.
1. The Wrong Dream
Ultimately, a great life isn't about your career. It's about your character. You can get to the top of your mountain and find yourself very alone there. Because you ran over or ran past the people you love to get there. Or because you gave up you to get there. Your integrity. Your family. Your Creator.
And, in the words of Jesus, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?" (Mark 8:36). The right dream is about the kind of person I want to be. Not the great thing I'll do.
2. The Missing Ladder
When Olympic legend Jesse Owens was in junior high, he told his coach, "I have a dream - to be the fastest man alive." His coach warned that "there's a problem with dreams, Jesse. You can't just get there by dreaming. You've got to build a ladder to your dream."
That's what many people miss. The training, the discipline, the patient, often painful little steps, the falling down and getting up again - the ladder. A successful life is built, not by hopes or words, but by hard work, dogged perseverance and a thousand little victories. You have to do the days to realize the dream.
3. The Fatal Flaw
Look back at the sad chapters. You'll see it. The damage our baggage or our brokenness have already done. The unresolved pain of our past. And the monster it birthed. That anger, that hardness, that unforgiveness, those feelings of worthlessness. Poisoning our relationships and our performance. Or the saboteur can be our own unconfronted, inner darkness. The lying. The wounding words. The pornography. The wandering eye - and desire. The "all about me."
Until we face our monsters and get free from them, they will stalk our success, ruin our relationships and destroy our dream.
4. The Wrong Driver
There's a lot of "little engine that could," "take charge" thinking in those graduation speeches. But me in the driver's seat of my life is like a four-year-old at the wheel of a car. He shouldn't be driving. Neither should I. I was never meant to. God's Book, the Bible, says we were "created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16). The One who gave me my life is supposed to be running my life.
But I'm a hijacker. "Each of us has turned his own way" - so "all of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory" (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). When I drive, I will crash. Missing the meaning I was made for. Missing the heaven I hope for.
I had to let go of the wheel to make it home. I had to say, "Jesus, take the wheel." Because His death for my sin is my only hope of being forgiven for the sin of a lifetime. His death-conquering power is my only hope to heal and conquer my inner brokenness.
Jesus birthed in me a far better dream for my life.
Originally published May 4, 2016