As a kid I lived for the last day of school. I remember planning my weeks of summer break; swimming, riding bikes, playing baseball, sleep-overs (not slumber parties, those were for girls), and the hundreds of other things summer brought. The theme of most summers was “endless potential”. It’s like anything could happen in the coming 12 or so weeks. Would we go on vacation? Would I find a summer crush? Would I grow 3 inches? The world was wide open with possibility.
Now, as an adult, I find that my sense of wonder, of possibility, has been curbed. Not completely gone, but reality has tethered me to the ground and has left me virtually incapable of dreaming the same kinds of dreams I did when I was younger. How sad. The worst part is that my dream deficiency doesn’t just affect my summer plans, it seems to have creeped into all of life. I find myself calculating risks for even the smallest tasks. Some of this is healthy, responsible, and just plain wise. But, in some areas of life, aren’t we supposed to just go for it, trusting that this is what God made us to do? Aren’t we supposed to be like a kid on the first day of summer break, ready to conquer the world?
In John 10, as Jesus is once again telling the Pharisees who he is, this time with the analogy of being the Good Shepherd who gives his life up for his sheep (that’s us), he says this, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” This is one of my favorite passages, because it doesn’t take a degree in philosophy to get it, Jesus wants us, his sheep, to have life to the full. In some translations it says, “abundant life” or “rich and satisfying life”.
When we allow the world around us, culture, fear, and our own limitations, to hinder us from dreaming, from pursuing the goals and passions that God has placed in us, we are not receiving the abundant, full, satisfying life that our Good Shepherd desires for us. Let me be clear; what I’m not saying is, “do whatever you want”, or “whatever makes you feel good”. That is not the true meaning of “life to the full”. The proper practice of this kind of living begins with first coming to know and trust the Good Shepherd. When we become his sheep, we can then discern his voice from all of the other voices out there. When we hear him, we hear his will for us, we can know his desires for us, we can discover the ingrained passions and gifts he’s written into us. These are the blueprints to our “life to the full”, these are the dreams that we should dare to dream, because they are backed by the Good Shepherd.
In Philippians, Paul tells the church there that God started something in them, something good, and that they could trust that if God started it, God would complete it. The same is true of each of us. If we know and trust our Good Shepherd, if we can hear his voice amid all of the other voices, then we can take comfort in the fact that he is working on our behalf to complete the good work in us. Our role in the process is to keep listening to him, to keep dreaming the dreams he’s placed in our hearts, and to keep moving forward with wonder and possibility. Like a child at the start of summer break, may we look to the days ahead and see endless possibilities, not of what we can do in our own power, but of what we can do with our Good Shepherd walking alongside of us.
“Our dreams, like the disciples’, are always too small. We are here to fulfill God’s dream—that we will bring Him glory through a remarkably abundant life. That’s how we find our greatest personal fulfillment, now and for eternity.” –Bruce Wilkinson