What feels like drudgery may be the dream

Column by Dan Hettinger


I was living the dream and didn't even know it.

The main reasons that I was missing it were because I had not identified my dream and I did not understand the process to fulfill it if I had known what it was.

A couple of stories illustrate my dilemma.

In the first chapter of my book, “Welcome to the Big Leagues — Every Man's Journey to Significance,” the main character was playing in the big leagues on, arguably, the best baseball team to ever take the field. With Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, Darrel Chaney played in four National League championship series and three World Series, including the classic seven-game, 1975 World Series with the Boston Red Sox. But he was living with the nagging frustration that his dream was unfulfilled because he was the utility player among superstars.

Joseph is a key figure in rescuing and establishing God's people during their difficult days in the captivity of Egypt. The Bible narrative reveals that God put the dream in the boy Joseph but refined and focused the dream during the painful maturing process that included rejection, slavery, injustice and more rejection before the dream came true. During the decades of pain, I doubt Joseph would have said, “I'm living the dream,” even though his dream really was coming true.

During this era of terrorism, a difficult economy plus relational and family chaos, it seems to me that many are giving up on the idea of a dream let alone the hope of it being fulfilled and the satisfaction of living in the process.

When I was a boy, I remember wanting to be somebody who mattered — someone whose life made an impact on those around him. I was clueless what that meant but as I lived I tried to find it in many of the normal ways, usually ending up in disappointment. I like sports, but I was not a great athlete. I have a college degree but academics were a struggle for me. I went into ministry, but never had a large church. God has always provided for me but most of my life has been on the ragged financial edge.

Now, with the perspective that almost six decades of living provides, I am beginning to see that my struggles have cultivated strength, my interests have provided ideas, my relationships have nurtured empathy and my financial needs have deepened faith and a known dependency on God. All of that adds up to more skills and opportunities for me to serve others where my life really matters.

Joseph's dream came true when he interpreted and helped Pharaoh's dream come true. God's people were saved from starvation and became a great nation. After a pre-game conversation with the wise baseball manager, Sparky Anderson, Darrel discovered that his good work as a utility player helped the team be all everyone dreamed it could be. His job was to “be ready when the game came to him.” He was, and the Reds won that incredible World Series in 1975.

Many times, as a hospice chaplain, I have stood at the bedside of a loved one who just passed from this life into the next and heard the family share the immeasurable impact of that life on theirs. Things as simple as the memory of a mom singing while she fixed pancakes, a dad taking his daughters on dates to teach them how a man should treat them or the importance as the presence of a spouse who simply was there to endure the trials and share the joys were all important actions that influenced lives and left a lasting legacy of what life is all about and how it should be lived. I wonder if the person felt that their life mattered, knew their impact changed the world and realized that they were living the dream.

When the churches of our town teach the story of Joseph and help people understand God's strategy of love to make every life matter, we can all believe in our dream, welcome the process and dream even greater dreams.

Dan Hettinger is director of pastoral services at Hospice of Saint John and president of The Jakin Group, a ministry of encouragement, especially to Christian workers. You can email him at dhettinger@hospiceofsaintjohn.org.


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