This past week I had to teach a lesson based on a text about Positive Thinking. I will pause briefly for those of you who know me well to stop laughing. Seriously. Stop it. It was, by far, the most enthusiastically discussed lesson that has been taught in our class. It is a topic that is reinforced throughout the school with large postings on the hallways.
These kind of ideals, “do what you love” and “live your dream” are being stamped into our psyche. I’ve heard more than one conversation of strangers as I’ve walked amongst the masses on 8th Avenue about people who are changing jobs because they think they need to be “doing what they love.”
Last week and next, if you follow American football at all, I guarantee that you will hear or have heard someone say they are “living their dream.” Recently, Bernie and Cori and I were following the television show, “The Voice.” Don’t judge us. One night we decided to count every time someone used the phrase “follow my dream.” We quit counting at 11 or 12. Same thing on American Idol or most any reality TV show. It angers me to hear the judges (i.e., those who followed their dream and made it) talk about this as if it were there for anyone and everyone with talent to accomplish if they try hard enough and long enough and make enough sacrifices. There are enough good singers and athletes out there, that if everyone as good as they were made it, there wouldn’t be enough people left to watch them and buy their records or the tickets to watch them.
But I have to wonder...has anyone thought through the long term implications of life if everyone followed their dream or only did what they love. If I have to use a public restroom, my preference is to use one that is clean. But has anyone ever had a dream to clean toilets? The men and women who drive the buses we take to commute every day -- was sitting in traffic hauling people around from one place to another their dream? When your elementary teacher asked you to write a paragraph about what you wanted to be when you grew up, did anyone choose sanitation worker, street sweeper, dish washer at a restaurant? Aren’t we all glad they are there?
Or what about the two men in front of me on the bus (they were rows ahead and speaking loudly - I wasn’t eavesdropping, I promise)? They were talking about radiation therapy and other options. Were they living their dreams when the big “C” hit? What about their dreams now?
The problem with these ideals and the need to prop them up with positive thinking is that God is removed from the picture. And like it, or not, you can’t remove God from your life. You don’t have to follow Him, or love Him, or obey Him or even believe in Him. But His presence and action are there regardless of your response to Him.
There are good things in the picture above. There are truths there. They just aren’t original. They are a plagiarized re-expression of Scripture re-centered around man instead of his Creator. In so doing, a very important piece has been left out as well. Hope.
I have to wonder if this is at the root of much of the depression in the US. This positive thinking, life is about my happiness mentality can’t be sustained. Then when reality, like the loss of a dream, or something as devastating as cancer happens, what then? I pretty much see two options. Hope or depression. That isn’t to say that there aren’t times when we have to fight through our depression to get to hope. That happens. But there is the potential of hope on the other side. When God is replaced by positive thinking, hope is only wishful thinking. Or can we say a dream?
Should we dream? Of course. Should we follow our dreams? Absolutely. Should we do what we love? You betcha. We just need to make sure our dreams are God’s dreams, and realize it may not look like anything on TV. Doing what we love is great as well, as long as we love God most. And realize that sometimes, oftentimes, in this life we have to do things we don’t love. Heck, we have to do things we don’t even like, because in the end, it isn’t really about us. It’s about God. It’s about others. Live that.