“Sardis was a city of peace, not the peace won through battle, but the peace of a man whose dreams are dead and whose mind is asleep, the peace of lethargy and evasion,”
I came across this quote while studying Revelation and no- this is not a “Bible” lesson per se, but one about dreams. This previous quote was from William Barclay in his Letters to the Seven Churches (New York: Abigdon, 1957), 71 as cited in Gabelein and Douglas, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 448.
These words completely haunted me as I pondered them.
How many people do you know who have silently let their dreams die and their minds go to sleep?
Do you know someone who has the peace of lethargy and evasion?
This has many terms:
“He's biding his time.”
“She's just waiting until retirement.”
“I'm stuck, so I might as well make the best of it.”
Now, you and I have sacrifices to make and truthfully, some days I question myself. We all teeter sometimes on lethargy. When you've given so much that you literally do not have anything else to give. When everything you've tried fails miserably. When you are in an untenable situation with a person who not only “doesn't get it” but makes our life a living hell.
Langston Hughes, the American poet says:
“Hold fast to dreamsFor if dreams die1Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow."
I've seen dreams die – in my own life – in my own home. When I became a teacher, I felt like my dream of having a successful business was going by the wayside. But, I knew for many reasons (most of which I felt God's calling) that teaching was where I was go. So, in this case, one dream died, but then another was born — in my own heart I realized that my goal would be to build one of the best technology programs in the world. Oh, that sounds ostentatious, but it was something I'd say even in assemblies and to my students. At first, I'd get several snickers — and then less. Now, finally, the students know – we do have one of the best. And now the dream is for more.
You have dreams. Maybe you're not where you thought you would be at this point in your life — but who is? If we knew everything that would happen before it happened, what would be the point? For me, this is the power in adjusting myself each morning to God and his purpose for me. Taking petitions to him. Asking for his wisdom – my dream is that when I'm done, He'll say “well done.”
But this is such a message for us. I think that whatever your faith- whoever you are — take this moment to look at yourself.
Do you have the peace that comes from lethargy and evasion? Have you become “comfortably numb?” (To coin the title of a Pink Floyd song?)
Purpose is something we long for and indeed most great leaders are characterized as having “vision” by those who survey the traits of leaders. Vision is seeing a dream and making it a goal — having purpose for the organization and in being a part of such an organization the people have purpose. Being a part of something bigger than yourself. Having a purpose.
For me… I have to keep asking myself – what is my purpose? Why am I here? What is the very best use of my time at this moment (Brian Tracy calls it the “Focal Point” in his amazing book of the same name.) For truthfully our moments make our hours, our hours make our days, our days make our months and years and years make our lives. You are what you eat, but even more so, you are what you do.
And what you do begins with those dreams. Taking the dreams and turning them into actionable items – identifying the things you must do to get there — clarifying the values that lead you to desire that dream to make sure it is in line with who you are. These are the hallmarks of the greatest, most productive people of our time. And sometimes those people don't have their faces on the cover of a magazine or on the bestseller list. Be careful of defining success as the world sees it -for truly the front pages of the world's magazines and newspapers only have a limited space and often that space goes to the most controversial and sick among us — not something I'd want.
I've started reading Greater Than Yourself by Steve Farber as recommended by my dear friend Angela Maiers and in this book I'm finding the purpose that this whole post is about. It is about finding others and having the humility to help them become greater – perhaps even than “you” are. In fact, this book is hugely appealing to teachers because that is truly our calling and our destiny — in our seats we have students that will surpass us. Students who will do great things. I look at each student and say to myself, “When this child's autobiography is written will I be an antagonist or will I be a mentor? Will I be a person that marked them in a positive way?” Oh, let it be positive?
There are teachers who are bullies! There are teachers who harm their beautiful, precious charges. There are administrators who do the same — but also my friends — there are legions and legions of incredible, loving, wonderful teachers who have a heart to help these students become greater than we will ever be.
Today, as you look at yourself – as you examine your life. As you ponder these thoughts I challenge you do this:
As these questions:
Do you have any dreams that are worth dying for?
If so, you've just found the dream worth living for!
Do you have any principles and beliefs that you'd give everything for?
If so, you've just found the principles and beliefs you are living for!
If you're bound in the lethargy and evasion that has you considering why you are even here, then pick up a book of encouragement. The definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expect different results! If a car is in a rut, we change something – going back and forth in the muddy clay only makes the car more stuck. We all get in ruts and have to use leverage to get ourselves out.
The leverage of excellent thoughts– find books, tapes, anything to help you refocus and see what you need to do. Seek wisdom. But most importantly – don't have a pity party. These are the things ALL of us experience. If someone says they have it all together – they lie. Someone on Twitter told me today that they “have never held a grudge.” Well, if that is so, then that person is perfect. We are so fallible and human we all make mistakes. We hold grudges and we screw up. But getting back up is the common denominator of the successful!
But the greatest mistake is to see yourself falling into the trap of a dangerous thought pattern of hopelessness and to NOT do something about it.
Oh, my friends – teaching is a noble calling. Educating our future is a noble calling. Raising your children and grandchildren is a noble calling! You have a purpose! Helping technology be put to good uses that empowr and improve mankind is a noble calling! Look beyond yourself and into yourself and find it! If you understand your own nobility – you begin to act more noble. Not in arrogance but in service. Not in self-centerness but in unselfish service of others.
Keep the faith and know that if you are here on this planet – YOU Have a purpose!
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