The Perils of a Pipe Dream

dreambigNehemiah 4:10-12
God-inspired dreams will be surrounded by discouragement
“Well, that’s probably just a pipe dream.” That’s what my encouraging supervisor at UMKC suggested when I confided that I wanted to earn a doctorate from Oxford University. Sure, I was halfway through a Masters at a decidedly low-prestige university. I had no business thinking I could make the leap to one of the most celebrated universities in the world. But that was my dream, so I shared it with her. Pipe dream, eh?
After finishing that degree, I taught for about a year before applying for doctoral programs. My applications went to various schools in the U.S. and that one centuries-old place in England. And when the reply came from Oxford, what did I learn? What came from my pipe dream?
“We regret to inform you,” the letter said. Actually, I don’t recall what the letter said, but it did that polite no-saying that rejections do. Maybe it was, “While many aspects of your application were impressive . . .” Regardless, the answer was “no.”
God-inspired dreams will be surrounded by discouragement, but so will a lot of self-inspired dreams. I have no reason to believe that God intended me to go to Oxford. It was my own ambition that led me in that direction.
Just because a dream is followed by discouragement does not prove that it comes from God. But all important dreams from God will be met with some measure of discouragement.
By the same token, when we pursue self-inspired dreams, ones that we for some reason shouldn’t be chasing, and we keep in constant relationship with God, we will experience God’s direction, which often takes the form of gentle discouragement or conviction.
  • What are your dreams? Are they God-inspired or you-inspired? How can you tell the difference?
  • When pursuing God-inspired dreams, how have you experienced discouragement? How did you deal with it?
  • Are you staying in close enough conversation with God that you can identify what He does and doesn’t want you to pursue? Are you close enough to weather the discouragement?