20 years ago today, I drove into Ann Arbor, Michigan to begin a new life.
I was thinking big. . .dreaming big.
My wife and our three sons stayed back in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the boys to finish out the school year and join me two months later. I came to Michigan to be the new pastor of a small church and see it grow. We had such a great life in New Mexico but we felt God was leading us to make this major move as part of His plan for our lives.
I still remember driving across the Huron River bridge into my new city that day – April 1, 1994 – (April Fool’s Day) and wondering to myself:
“Am I a real fool to leave such a great life to make this move or will God do big things through me here?”
20 years ago, I had a lot of dreams. A lot of them were quite good. God honoring. But too many of my dreams were just – I confess – “big.” You see, in my mind, I always thought “bigger was better.” I was convinced that this small church would not stay small for long – not with me as the new leader! It would be big. It would impact the city, change the world.
20 years later I can see how so many of my “big” dreams were really about. . .me.
I had a need that almost consumed me. I wish I could say that the only thing that consumed me was to love God and bring Him glory but that just wouldn’t be true. No, I had a consuming need to “be somebody” – to have a large and well-known church, to write books, to travel nationally and internationally and speak to huge crowds of people. I had hoped for a long time to one day be on television or radio. Honestly, I wanted to be famous – famous for God, but nevertheless, famous.
I loved God. I wanted to make Him known.
But I also loved. . . me. And I wanted to make me known.
I thank God that He did not answer so many of my prayers. I thank God that He did not let so many of my “big” dreams come true.
I can see so clearly now that fame would have killed me. It would have ruined my marriage, my family, my integrity.
I can see so clearly now that “bigger” is not always or necessarily “better.”
He doesn’t necessarily want famous people. He wants faithful people.
I see now that God uses the small, the invisible, the humble, the quiet to accomplish His big purposes in the world.
I learned these things through:
#1 – Failure. Our church did grow. It had impact in our city. But later, we experienced hard times and I experienced depression. In that failure however, I saw what success really meant. I saw what mattered to God.
#2 – My wife. I had a wife that understood God and His ways far more than I did. She stuck with me, suffered through my selfish and egotistical ways, and modeled what “bigness” really is – a life of quiet, invisible service to God and others.
20 years later I have new dreams, better dreams – you might even say “bigger” dreams (in the right sense of the word):
* I want to die with my wife proud of me. I want to be famous to her and faithful to her.
* I want to die with my wife knowing that she was loved and more important than anyone else on face of the earth to me.
* I want my sons and their wives – and their children and grandchildren who follow them – to be faithful in living for Jesus until he returns.
* I want to tell as many people as I possibly can about the greatness of God – His love, His mercy, His faithfulness, His holiness, and His gracious plan to save sinful, helpless, hopeless humanity. In short, I want Him to be glorified.
* I want to tell as many people as I possibly can about the story of Jesus – his love, his miracles, and his unbelievable sacrifice for us. In short, I want him to be satisfied.
Like the John the Baptist in the Injil, (The Good News of John, chapter 3, verse 30), I want:
More of Him.
Less of me.
These are my dreams. . .my big dreams. . .20 years later.
(Postscript: whether you call yourself a Muslim or a Christian, what were your big dreams 10, 15, 20 years ago? What are they today? How have they changed?)