What About My Creative Dreams?

This is one of the hardest questions I get. At this stage I get to live full time in the midst of some of the creative dreams I had as a young man. I can appreciate others wanting to as well, though I will warn them that it is not all they think it is. That said, I hurt for the hundreds of thousands of people who have a creative talent and desire and want to at least find a way to vocationally live off of their art.

Here’s a question I got this morning in my email:

I have been listening to your Transition. I have been searching for this message; living in Jesus, in His love,  and your understanding of the cross; Christianity is not just following Jesus or believing in Him, it is Him living in us. It is so much more radical than any other message.  My question is regarding surrendering our agenda. I want so much to live in trust and in His love. I am a musician, accomplished and persevering and ambitious but the biggest boulder between me and Him is my career. Although I have had moments of satisfaction, mostly it has been frustration, unfulfilled dreams and disappointment and I’m not getting any younger. Why would God give me the talent, the desire and ambition, the work ethic, the perseverance and then frustrate the fulfillment? How does ambition and dreams reconcile with your idea of letting go of all our agendas to live freely?

I know so many people who struggle with the same disappointed hopes. Here’s how I answered this email:

I certainly resonate with your struggle. It was one of the hardest struggles on mine. Our the ambitions and the application of our creative dreams as vocations are the hardest bits of our agenda to give up. It was a huge struggle for me in my first 20 years out of college. I thought God had gifted me to do what he hadn’t opened doors for me to do. I was frustrated all the time. About 15 years ago, I began to learn to live in that space of living loved. The frustration evaporated over a period of time. Instead of looking for bigger doors than the ones opened to me, I just began to use my passions where Father created opportunity. I think the pressure to live off of my talent and ambition kept me from the simple doors he had right in front of me. I thought I had to figure out a way to make my living from it.

I’ve learned since that God doesn’t frustrate fulfillment of our gifts. When we’re frustrated it usually means we are looking at the wrong doors—those that are closed, not the innovative or creative ones he has already opened to us. I know that was true for me for way too many years. The podcast we did last week, Stop Doing, starts with some opening reflections from some of my sharing in NY city with a group of artists and entrepreneurs. That might help. The reality is for every one person that gets to live their dream creatively, there are hundreds of thousands of people who would like to. It’s just what our society rewards, big scale to a tiny few. There isn’t much we can do to make that happen, and those the doors open for are not necessarily the most gifted or the most healthy. It’s part of the chaos of our world and its distorted priorities.

We all want to be ‘discovered’ and fulfill our dream that we think others are living, instead of touching the lives that are already in front of us. We can do that with art, music, writing, encouraging and in every other way, right in our own community, inside the relationships we have already. As they bear fruit, God may open other doors. Or, he may not. But I can tell you that this much is true. You will find more joy in one person being changed by something God has done in you, than walking onto a stage and being the superstar of the evening. The latter is 90% ego and the fruit of it will not endure.

God can certainly put us in that space if he desires, but I’ve found there’s not much we can do to make it happen. So serve him well where you are. Do what he gives you to do with the best talent and hard work you can muster. Creative living is not for the lazy. And live deeply in him so that you know that your loved. Someday your creative dreams and ambitions will be consumed by the shear delight of living as his son in the earth, then you can live at peace, enjoy the doors God does open, and feel no frustration about trying to make something happen that is not in our power to do.

That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but I think there is life in it. Luke 14 has a great story about those fighting for the best seats at the banquet, and Jesus’ quiet instruction was for us all to take the last place, and if the Master of the banquet wants to give you a greater place, he will come and get us. That Scripture was given to me by numerous people over the first 20 years of adulthood. I hated it. I kept thinking God was telling me I wasn’t humble enough to have one of the front-row seats. Instead he was loving me enough to help end my frustration at the back table and to simply enjoy where I was at, knowing that further opportunities were in his hands no mine. I’ve been able to rest there the last 15 years, and I love it! And I’ve found the best doors didn’t open overnight, but resulted from very small decisions to love or serve someone that had consequences I didn’t see at the time.

But I do now that God has to win you to this. This is not a matter of us just changing our minds about vocational success. This is knowing his love deeply enough, that if you would truly know that if he wanted you to have a different opportunity, you would have it by now. I know how much I would have hated someone saying this to me twenty years ago, but I still wish I would have listened if they had.

Share this Post!

Related post

12 Comments
  1. Fran February 23, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I can second your thoughts, Wayne. When I graduated from high school I wanted to be a PE teacher because I believed that God gifted me with a love of movement and exercise. I never finished that degree in college but got married and had kids. In my late 30s I started into the martial arts and got a black belt. I taught in the martial arts school, in a local park department as well as as a women’s self defense class in the local police department. At that point I realized that I was getting to do everything that I had planned for but in a different form than I had imagined. There were some interesting lessons learned along the way but I enjoyed the ride.

  2. Fran February 23, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I can second your thoughts, Wayne. When I graduated from high school I wanted to be a PE teacher because I believed that God gifted me with a love of movement and exercise. I never finished that degree in college but got married and had kids. In my late 30s I started into the martial arts and got a black belt. I taught in the martial arts school, in a local park department as well as as a women’s self defense class in the local police department. At that point I realized that I was getting to do everything that I had planned for but in a different form than I had imagined. There were some interesting lessons learned along the way but I enjoyed the ride.

  3. Bill Ooms February 24, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Wayne.
    My first career was as an electronics engineer — I loved technology and creating new things. But my career became quite tiresome when they promoted me to management and I no longer did any of the fun creative work. The pay was good, but it was frustrating me. Then 7 years ago I felt God calling me to step away from it and do an early retirement. That was a difficult decision. Now, I’m creating wood sculptures to sell at art shows — I’m back into creating new things, but in a totally different field that I never considered before. I have no regrets that I followed God’s new open door.
    My other passion was music. I had been involved in church worship teams ever since college. Now that I don’t attend organized church gatherings, I’m not doing that any more. It was really difficult to step back from that involvement in music. However, now I’m helping a young lady who has a marvelous voice, but can’t afford to record her music. I’m doing arranging, orchestration, and helping her record her music in my small home studio. I’m not making any money on this, but it’s very rewarding to give to people and help them. Once again, it’s a small door that opened, and I have no idea where it will lead. But it’s fun!
    Wayne, you’re right when you say that we can find peace by living in that close relationship with Father. We can trust him to open those little doors that will give us the greatest fulfillment.

  4. stacy wills February 24, 2009 at 9:54 am

    wise words, wayne. thanks for sharing them.

  5. Bill Ooms February 24, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Wayne.
    My first career was as an electronics engineer — I loved technology and creating new things. But my career became quite tiresome when they promoted me to management and I no longer did any of the fun creative work. The pay was good, but it was frustrating me. Then 7 years ago I felt God calling me to step away from it and do an early retirement. That was a difficult decision. Now, I’m creating wood sculptures to sell at art shows — I’m back into creating new things, but in a totally different field that I never considered before. I have no regrets that I followed God’s new open door.
    My other passion was music. I had been involved in church worship teams ever since college. Now that I don’t attend organized church gatherings, I’m not doing that any more. It was really difficult to step back from that involvement in music. However, now I’m helping a young lady who has a marvelous voice, but can’t afford to record her music. I’m doing arranging, orchestration, and helping her record her music in my small home studio. I’m not making any money on this, but it’s very rewarding to give to people and help them. Once again, it’s a small door that opened, and I have no idea where it will lead. But it’s fun!
    Wayne, you’re right when you say that we can find peace by living in that close relationship with Father. We can trust him to open those little doors that will give us the greatest fulfillment.

  6. Ann Patrick February 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Wayne,
    This is my first time to communicate on your blog. My husband has followed your journey for several years now and was even in a meeting with you a few (couple?) years ago. I wanted to echo what you said in your post about our creative abilities and finding fulfillment there. I’ve only in the last few years (I’m 52) started seeing myself as a creative person and I have found myself wishing at times that these aspects of myself had been nurtured when I was young. Yes, it’s frustrating. But I have found that within the spiritual family that God as given me there is place for the expression of these things. If I have something to say I say it to them. I use my camera in meetings like it’s supposed to be there and am growing in understanding of how Jesus who lives in me wants to express himself through me and through whatever ability He put in me. There are other things I want to learn. I don’t concern myself about being professional although I think there my be a time for that and there is a desire for it. I am finding fulfillment in being rather than doing. I want all my doing to come out of being in Him and Him in me. I know that if I don’t pursue the doing then he will have more opportunity to express Himself. When I know that has happened then I feel that sense of fulfillment. It almost doesn’t even matter if anyone likes what I said or did if I know that He has been the originator of it. I hope that all will come to see that it’s really about allowing Jesus to express his totality in the earth through the diversity of personalities and gifts he has placed within his body. Blessings.

  7. stacy wills February 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    wise words, wayne. thanks for sharing them.

  8. Ann Patrick February 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Wayne,
    This is my first time to communicate on your blog. My husband has followed your journey for several years now and was even in a meeting with you a few (couple?) years ago. I wanted to echo what you said in your post about our creative abilities and finding fulfillment there. I’ve only in the last few years (I’m 52) started seeing myself as a creative person and I have found myself wishing at times that these aspects of myself had been nurtured when I was young. Yes, it’s frustrating. But I have found that within the spiritual family that God as given me there is place for the expression of these things. If I have something to say I say it to them. I use my camera in meetings like it’s supposed to be there and am growing in understanding of how Jesus who lives in me wants to express himself through me and through whatever ability He put in me. There are other things I want to learn. I don’t concern myself about being professional although I think there my be a time for that and there is a desire for it. I am finding fulfillment in being rather than doing. I want all my doing to come out of being in Him and Him in me. I know that if I don’t pursue the doing then he will have more opportunity to express Himself. When I know that has happened then I feel that sense of fulfillment. It almost doesn’t even matter if anyone likes what I said or did if I know that He has been the originator of it. I hope that all will come to see that it’s really about allowing Jesus to express his totality in the earth through the diversity of personalities and gifts he has placed within his body. Blessings.

  9. todd March 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

    excellent sharing……..thank you thank you!

    Todd

  10. todd March 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    excellent sharing……..thank you thank you!

    Todd

  11. Emery Smith March 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I have been thinking through this issue since my late 20’s and had not accomplished the dreams of high school…so much so I was embarrassed to go to my high school reunion. I was sure I had not done what was my destiny. Due to family decisions, I have stayed in a career path that has never overtly rewarded me emotionally, creatively or financially but I tend toward the ‘half full’ view so I gave what I had and left the results to GOD. It was difficult to have five kids and not be able to give the expected to them. Nevertheless, now they are parents and affirm our raising as very helpful to their maturity and love of Jesus.

    It is hard to give up the ‘destiny view of childhood’ and just relax in Father’s love…but He is continuing to work on me with increasing success.

    Thanks for your wise perspective! I encourage you to share this message with high school/college as this is not a common message in our culture, even within Jesus followers.

  12. Emery Smith March 27, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I have been thinking through this issue since my late 20’s and had not accomplished the dreams of high school…so much so I was embarrassed to go to my high school reunion. I was sure I had not done what was my destiny. Due to family decisions, I have stayed in a career path that has never overtly rewarded me emotionally, creatively or financially but I tend toward the ‘half full’ view so I gave what I had and left the results to GOD. It was difficult to have five kids and not be able to give the expected to them. Nevertheless, now they are parents and affirm our raising as very helpful to their maturity and love of Jesus.

    It is hard to give up the ‘destiny view of childhood’ and just relax in Father’s love…but He is continuing to work on me with increasing success.

    Thanks for your wise perspective! I encourage you to share this message with high school/college as this is not a common message in our culture, even within Jesus followers.

Comments are closed.