He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. Proverbs 28, verse 19.
I am a healthcare consultant. In just a few weeks, I will start my twelfth year of doing this for a living, meaning I will have done it longer than my previous life’s career (in the Air Force). Officially, that will make me a career consultant. I’ll be the first to tell you: this wasn’t the career I planned for or even wanted. It would be hard for me to imagine a scene where you’re asking a bunch of kids ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ and one of them screams out “I want to be a healthcare IT consultant!” It just wouldn’t happen. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll also confess that this isn’t a career I would recommend to my kids. It has taken me a decade to learn the in’s and out’s, the business of how health insurance companies work, and to master the terminology and data. It can be extremely frustrating even as it is profitable. No, it wasn’t what I set out to do years ago, and it isn’t even all I would want it to be now. But it is my career and it is what it is.
Because of how God blesses me through this job, there is abundant food on my table. When I’m on an airplane, jetting off to the next client, it’s awful easy to miss that fact. It zips right by just like the birds outside the jet. I may not be where I thought I would be, or even where I want to be, but I’m where God intends for me to be so He can bless me and those around me. Because of how God blesses me in this position, there is food on my table, there is money in the bank, and there is satisfaction.
But what about dreams? Read closely and you’ll find that the verse doesn’t condemn chasing a dream. A dream can be a realistic goal, something out of your reach that you need to work for. It might be how you know what your heart tells you to do, perhaps even your life’s calling. Not so a fantasy. A fantasy is unrealistic and unlikely. It’s satisfying and exotic, something you wouldn’t do in your ordinary existence. Fantasies may be fulfilling in private times, but they aren’t much use otherwise. Dreams, though, can keep us going. Dreams can be things that, with work and dedication, we can make come true. And the great thing about dreams is how God blesses us through them. He may very well speak to us that way, imparting advice and direction for the ways in which He wants us to move. And it could just be that, as we journey along, the dreams God gave us yesterday can be replaced with new ones, unforeseen dreams made possible by how and where He blesses us today. That can be a good thing.
This weekend was our monthly Dinner and a Movie Bible study and we had a big soiree for it at Chez Terry. This month’s movie was “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You probably know the story of the small town man who dreams of doing big things in life but sacrifices those dreams for others. George Bailey wants to live large, build big buildings, be important, be noticed. Instead, he unwittingly sacrifices those fantasy dreams to build people and hearts, to help them build lives instead of just sticks and bricks. He could very easily have gone off chasing those fantasies, futilely asking “what about me?” Not George. George does what he feels he ought to do instead of what his dreams tell him to do.
I’m no George Bailey; I don’t have that kind of character. I just don’t. All too often I have chased the fantasies instead of seeing the abundant table spread before me. Half of every year in the last ten, sometimes more, I’ve spent the nights alone, doing what I felt I had to do instead of what I wanted. When I wasn’t looking, I became involved in the fantasies of others who were hurting like me. When I didn’t want to, I jumped into poverty of the soul, bringing heartache, wreckage, and hurt to others and myself. George Bailey is the character with character; I’ve often done well by making the best choices I could, but I’ve also made some pretty awful ones too. When they were bad, they were very bad. All too often, I let my character be tarnished and defamed by them. That’s hardly what happened in the movie.
And yet, it’s still a wonderful life. All the while there has still been abundant food on the table and God pouring out His blessings on me: the wicked servant who didn’t deserve them yet was blessed by them all the same. The food on the table, the good health, sound house, caring relationship, growing family, and blessed church were all vital things in my life. I have simply failed to appreciate them and be thankful. Recognize that, I’m left here on an early morning flight to Chicago, writing these words and silently praying the same prayer as old George Bailey: “Lord, I don’t care what happens to me. Just let me live again.”
Between 20 and 30 people cycled through the party and associated Bible study on Saturday, sharing fellowship, good food, a little bit of wine, and a chance to discuss the things of God in the terms of a classic movie. At one point, while rushing to pull hot appetizers out of the oven, I quickly glanced around and thought, “this is great. This is where I’m supposed to be right now.” It was made possible by hard work, working the land of my career and how God blesses my family and I through that. It was made possible by all those trips to Arizona, Minnesota, California and Michigan this year, even the hundreds of days and nights apart. The moment was a reality because of struggling to do what I ought to do instead of what I fantasized about doing. In that moment, God blessed me to look around and see the abundant food of friends and their love that He had blessed into my life. Like the dreams I once had and the new ones in my heart now, those moments keep you going and bring love into your life. They make it worthwhile to work in this career that I own, understanding what a blessing it is. Just like the note left for George Baileysaid, no man is a failure who has friends.