Elisabeth Elliot’s voice, low and calm, read from a journal entry of her deceased beloved— the statement, bold and heavy with conviction, landed hot on my heart through the car speakers, “Dreams are tawdry compared with the leading of God.”[i]
Not simply, “we must sacrifice our dreams for God’s dreams” or “our dreams must not become idols.” No, no. Jim Elliot, considers (I am quite certain his opinion hasn’t changed since meeting God) human dreams with a flavor of distain. He considers them “tawdry”— gaudy, showy, cheap, low, mean, base, or, as a noun, “cheap, gaudy apparel.”[ii]
Human dreams, I think, can be worn in attempts to show people we are worth something in the world. We are headed toward greatness of some sort— in artistry, finance, even ministry. We are not solely the person standing before them, mortal and unimpressive, we are small gods who can fabricate greatness out of something that is not— the future. Many of us know in our hearts that our dreams are ultimately fiction. They are stories we weave for ourselves that we hope will come true— not only hope, but work toward. At times, it is not a stretch to say, serve.
Numerous qualifying fine lines of motive and heart can be drawn if we are trying to figure out when a dream goes from being moral to immoral— from beneficial and productive for the Kingdom to idolatrous, prideful, and selfish. However, even if a dream or desire is good and submitted to God that does not change what our dreams are in comparison to God’s will: Tawdry.
Jesus tells us our love for Him and desire to serve Him should be so great that, in comparison, our relationship with our family should look like hate.[iii] Paul says, “Those who have wives should live as if they do not.”[iv] As has been explained by many a pastor and writer, this does not mean we should hate our families or leave our spouses. However, this should not take away from the weight of the call…and, the basis of this call— the great, great worthiness of Christ and His Kingdom. And how very small our other loves and dreams should be in comparison. Eyes solely fixed on Christ, love for sister and spouse becomes more holy. But, in choosing between the two, the answer is always to be Christ. If it’s not, our love is sullied. The same is true when considering good dreams.
Clothe yourself in a dream of your own invention and it is sewn with all your brokenness.
Clothe yourself in Christ and you are covered in power, righteousness, and light. He will mend the brokenness of your dreams and shape your dreams to His will as you choose Him time and time again.
This is so amazing!
The possibilities we have on our own are limited. Our God does beyond what we could ever imagine— His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.[v] His power so far exceeds our abilities but our dear Lord, He, (great mystery) uses His power through us as we submit. “That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”[vi] [SAY WHAT?!?]
The will and power of God may seem far from you, but it is not. He is not. He is accomplishing His will through you as you walk in obedience and communion with Him— even when it means putting a dream second. He is accomplishing His will as you respond to the prompting of the Spirit—even when it means putting a dream to death.
The “kingdom of God,” at least in one sense, is not far off: “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can observed, nor will people say “Here it is” or “There it is” for the kingdom of God is in your midst [or, ‘within you’].”’”[vii]
He is working now and He wants to do His work in and through you.
I trust that His dreams are so much better than any dreams I could write for myself. The future He has for us makes me tear-up in awe— I know He will use me beyond my power and this ASTOUNDS and humbles me. Such great delight. Such great mercy. His wind blows and whispers and clothes my heart with His. Jim Elliot died by spear trying to connect with the Aucas, a tribe who had never heard of Christ. Elisabeth Elliot forgave, lived with, and ministered to that same tribe for two years. Many were added to the Kingdom.
My dreams are so tawdry compared with the will of God.
I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
3 thoughts on “Dreams are Tawdry”
I remember a saying, God wouldn’t give you a desire (a dream?) to do something without giving you the abilities you need to see it through. I’d like to think that our dreams are inspired – like puzzle pieces to be put together with those of other believers to accomplish God’s will. Our dreams need not necessarily be an opposition to God’s efforts, but they can be part of God’s calling on our lives.
Hi, Jamie– Thank you for reading and for your comment! I definitely agree that God can and often does use our dreams and desires. The complication in all of this is sorting out the desires/dreams of our old self and our new self. The Bible is clear that the two continue battle even when we give our lives to Christ. Motivation and position in relation to God plays a large role in this too, I think– is our aim to honor and glorify God or ourselves? Are we in a posture of true worship or idolatry? I also think that as we draw near to God He often develops/infuses/changes our dreams and desires to accomplish His will. I must believe that, if we are sensitive to the Spirit and Word, we will be led 🙂 Sorry for being long-winded! Again, I much appreciate your words! Blessings.
That may be true in a sense, but I was saved as a small child, I really have no idea what kind of dream my old self had.
Even in school growing up, I never really had a dream of doing anything or being anything.
I still don’t have that dream after all these years and it’s as if I don’t have a goal to strive for.