The first sign of inflated dreams may have been couched in “cute.”
After my cameo appearance in the local high school’s Annie, I was convinced I was Hollywood-bound. “It’s a rat!” rang through my home for months in varied pitches and tones. It was the one-line offering of my second-grade stardom.
I surveyed the scope of early-actors, clad in their homemade costumes and somehow decided my stage would be bigger one day. Never mind that I was one step beyond an extra in this performance, not even an understudy for Annie herself. I thought I wasn’t lacking talent, just “undiscovered”.
The carefree nature of childhood fancy, overlooking every obstacle. Fearless in the face of a dream.
Eight years later and I heard a similar murmur, except this time it came from outside. Inside. My introduction to Jesus was quickly followed by a spirit-felt whisper: “you are set apart.” It was other and I believed it. Reverberating into my spirit, there was no room for question.
I stepped into it.
It wrapped around my faith and, in a way, became a sieve for all I processed about walking with Jesus. It made me willing to be more “out there” than I might have otherwise been because — after all, what did people who are set-apart do but live in set-apart ways. It contributed to the thrill of following God, as my assessment of even other believers around me was that not everyone wore this locket around their necks.
In His graciousness, God let me conform what I did to my interpretation of that simple phrase. He wasn’t threatened by any young-blooded misinterpretation. The rock of ages let it age.
Patience only a Father with long-term vision can own.
Ten years later, and a drop of understanding came in a dream.
I dreamed I was at my own funeral. The person speaking was a Young Life girl, one into whom I poured much of my time, energy and prayers. She had become a believer on my watch and was currently praying for her family and friends to be transformed. She was a disciple of Jesus that He’d assigned me.
She was my legacy.
In my dream, at the funeral, she didn’t say all the things I would have expected of her. No accolades about my impact on her life. No stories about how my influence had facilitated her heart and life change.
These were her words: “The most significant thing about Sara’s life was that she held the key to Nate’s heart.”
I woke up in a cold sweat, unable to measure the gravity of what this dream’s message exposed, just aware that it was not an ordinary response to too much pizza.
Revelation came in, the Weaver’s hand waiting for just the right opportunity. No detail of life unattended by Him.
Hours later, I began to make connections that only weeks, months and years would bear the fruit of understanding.
In my burgeoning faith, I did not hesitate to attach meaning to “set apart.” Big. Loud. Noticeable impact. People saved from the depths, both physical and spiritual. Hundreds, thousands reflecting the stream of His life in my life. Fame with christian-skin. My pride-filled heart believed that was said in hushed tone to me, would soon be known by many, …”she was one who was set apart.”
The kindness of God let me start to play the part. And just when my parched mouth showed late-signs of pride’s dehydration already settling into my bones, He spoke when I could not talk over Him. Being “set apart” in the upside down kingdom is not a natural rise in stature, but a strung-together series of hidden opportunities to show your hand to only God.
His assignment for me at that time was vastly different than the one I assumed for myself. I was giving my best — my all — for that which was visible at the expense of the quiet — unknown to all but two — callings that really are the making of a man. And a woman.
Each season brings with it a new assignment from God. Some stay on for a while, over years, like the ring-bearing one reminding me of covenant’s anchor, and others pass like sand through my fingers. All of them invite the fulfillment of that word written on my fifteen year-old heart, but almost none are observable to the naked eye. Vapor to all but One. Invisible emblems.
“Set apart” by His standards is our heart’s response to those seemingly insignificant assignments. Gold concealed is the dish-washing, toilet-scrubbing, clipping of toddler fingernails. The wal-mart worker, laid off from corporate climbing, has a chance at the kind of success that will never be taken from him.
Jesus is found in the hidden seasons, saying in a voice only we can hear because if others could it’s power would be diminished: “you are set apart” and “I am found here.” What my immature mind perceived to be unique to me, is in fact an invitation to all of us.
My eyes for fame at seven were God-given. Early hunger-pains to be set apart, His doing. Tender fingers under wisdom’s calluses have gently undone what I built up as a result of that infant-whisper. With years of bruises on my knees from trying to climb out of the manhole God hid me in, I look back with Him like He’s a college crony and we’re dreaming about our glory days. Just me and Him.
Lord, let me never make one of your thousand small-but-so-large assignments become my footstool on the way to the one or two I might have in my lifetime that have only the appearance of being bigger.
You determine what counts.
Give me Your eyes for my now-assignment.