In my younger days, I was always a dreamer. I was, and to a certain extent still am someone who enjoys dreaming about all kinds of things.
On one level there is nothing wrong with having big dreams. It’s natural for anyone. But if it becomes a habit, like it did with me, it can begin to take over your life and prevent you from feeling satisfied with who you are.
I can break down my dreams into two categories: realistic dreams that I was willing to work for and unrealistic dreams that I wanted to just magically happen. The ones that I was willing to work for the produced character. The unrealistic ones that I just dreamed about produced nothing. Such dreaming is simply time that is wasted and wishful thinking.
But when my wishful thinking started to become a pattern of thought, it began to take over my entire mindset as far as life was concerned. This led to unrealistic expectations in my personal life and discontentment in the real life that I was living.
Going through life pretending to be important or famous is no way to live life. What I see now as l look back through the eyes of wisdom is that my dreams were an escape mechanism. Whether I was imagining that I was a rock star or a famous actor or even the President of the United States, being important was what was important.
In reality, my life was actually very ordinary. I grew up in a small town where nothing really ever happens or changes. I did not go to college and pursue higher education, and I have not done much traveling. But in my dreams, I was famous all over the world for over three decades!
Such dreaming is more appropriately called fantasizing. If it’s kept in check, it can actually be a fun way to use and enjoy our God-given imagination. But if it gets out of control, a person can end up getting lost. And it might take years to make it back to reality. That is kind of what my young adult years were like.
In Proverbs 16:3 it says “Entrust your works to the Lord, and all your plans will succeed.” That proved to be something I was not mature enough to do.
Settling for Something
Fame or no fame, everyone has to do something to survive. I came from a lower middle-class family in which college was not really discussed. So when I turned 18 it seemed as if my only options were to get a job doing something or join the military. So I joined the United States Air Force. Not because of any love for the military but because it was something to do that paid money. Lack of self-confidence or self-esteem, combined with my family’s simple background, did not allow me to believe that I could ever be anything other than a common person.
I stayed in the military for a little over two years, received a general discharge under honorable conditions and came home. Back at home I took the test for the United States Postal Service, and after a two year wait, I was informed that I had been selected for employment. I passed all of the qualifying tests and became a career USPS employee. My family thought I had it made. I soon began thinking differently.
Not being thankful for what I have
I began working for the postal service in 1987. My father thought I was the luckiest guy in the world. I was soon making over $20.00 an hour, a wage he had only dreamed of.
As a postal employee, I was represented by a national union that made it almost impossible for me to get fired. Getting laid off was also a virtual impossibility because there would always be mail to sort and deliver. Combine all of that with 6 weeks paid vacation each year and paid sick leave as well, and a lot of folks would be very grateful for a job like that. But not me.
Instead, I found negative things that disappointed me. I did not have weekends off. I had to work nights. The work was boring in the sense that anyone could do it. The job did not require any talents which would make someone feel special as a person. Intellectual abilities were not needed, and even though I do not go to college I always tended to think of myself as fairly intellectual.
As a result, my very good job with good benefits was not a source of joy for me, but one of frustration.
It says in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we had food and clothing, we shall be content with that.”
When someone is not thankful for what they have, they usually end up taking things for granted. Even as a child I tended to take things for granted, and so I developed into someone who was spoiled. And spoiled people do not grow, especially spiritually.
Feeling like a Failure
Not being content with who I was, I escaped into an imaginary world of who I wanted to be – someone famous or popular, known by everybody and celebrated. Riches were not as important as the attention. Someone once told me that I appeared to be an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Today I believe that person was correct. I just did not realize it at the time.
It’s not as if I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and being depressed. I did not. Instead, I escaped. I spent my free time drinking alcohol and using drugs to intoxicate myself. I became dependent upon chemicals to produce euphoric feelings that would take me out of my boring life and into my imaginary one.
In my intoxicated world I constantly talked to myself and created situations where I was the center of attention – I was being interviewed on television or making a celebrity appearance, performing live on stage, or in a political debate. I was even elected President. No matter what it was, it was something fictional, far removed from my actual circumstances.
I was my own worst enemy
What I learned as the years went by, is that when I am enjoying a fictional life more than the real one, I am not real. And if I am not real, eventually, the fiction will haunt me. I was failing to find the real me, by being so self-absorbed with various fictional ‘mes.’ But nobody can live a lie forever.
Thankfully, God never gave up on me, just as He does not give up on any of us. I am absolutely convinced that He had a plan for my life that He was going to see through to fruition no matter what. It was as if God were saying that when it came to my becoming who He intended, ‘we can do it the easy way or the hard way.’ The easy way would have been for me to humble myself, be thankful for what I have, and trust God. I chose the hard way.
Beginning to wake up
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” I quote this particular scripture because growing up is not always easy or desired. I have come to understand what it is like to experience both.
As it says in Hebrews 12:11 “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”
God had His own unique ways to snap me out of my dream world and make me deal with the real world. And the best way was to let me reap the consequences of my own behavior. Some of that reaping included suffering a compound fracture on my right leg that would need 8 operations, 63 total days in a hospital and not being able to walk for over 6 months. I lost my job with the post office and was no longer receiving a paycheck, my car was repossessed, and I found out how difficult it is to not have any money.
I also lost my drivers’ license because of my fourth drunk driving conviction, and would not be legally allowed to drive for six years. That would lead to knowing what it is like to be stranded and not able to go anywhere.
And there were also all of the mental and physical complications that come from alcohol and drug abuse. My drinking and drug use landed me in a detox hospital unit 11 different times, including 3 times in one month.
Light at the end of the Tunnel
I heard a sermon once that said in our lives when it comes to God’s work in us, we are either like clay or marble. Clay is easy to mold and offers no resistance. Whereas marble is hard and has to be chiseled away and takes much longer to shape and form. I guess I was marble.
In the end, however, with the help of God’s grace, I learned a great deal about myself, my life, and God, by enduring everything that I had put myself through. Fortunately, I was able to get Social Security Disability Insurance. I got my drivers’ license back and eventually got another car. But this is about much more than material things.
I learned to be content with who I am. And I learned not to be jealous of people who are famous and to realize that that kind of life is not always a blessing. I became thankful for the mother and father that I had been given and for the time in this world that I had with them.
I became very thankful for getting and staying clean and sober and learning to discover myself as a person who is no longer dependent on alcohol or drugs. And most importantly, I got to know Jesus Christ in a much more mature way than I ever dreamed possible.
Living in Fulfillment
Simply put, Jesus Christ used to be somebody that I would hear about in Church and one day meet at the end of my life. Today, He is someone with whom I share every day. I would not be who I am without Him. He has made it possible for me to accept life as it is. And He has taught me how to pursue things that are achievable. Jesus taught me to stop wasting time wishing for things that never were or never will be. And He has taught me to overcome my fear of Him, and replaced it with complete trust in Him. Christ also made me see my own selfishness and changed me into someone who was more interested in what I can do for others.
We are taught in Ephesians 4: 22-24 “Put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
Lose your life to find it
God loves us so much that He is always trying to help us become more than who we are. Sometimes He even uses difficult situations of our own making to get our attention focused back on Him.
Mark 8:36 tells us “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” If we put seeking our creator before what has been created, we find a real life that is truly fulfilling. God has helped me to see that the true purpose of talent is to serve those who need our help.
I’ve found that the road that leads to heaven is far better than any pleasure or status this world offers. Jesus’ words are true both now and forever. “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” [Matthew 16:25].