A man. A fire. A doubt. A voice.
Imagine the scene.
The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in flames from within a bush. “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of slavery and out of Egypt.”
But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
God said, “Aaron will speak for you. He is already on his way to meet you.”
And when Aaron showed up, Moses showed Aaron the burning bush. He explained the calling of God. He explained how when he expressed doubts based on his own weaknesses, God provided Aaron to be the voice. The voice of Moses. The voice of God. The voice of promises fulfilled. The voice of hope for a thousand generations!
And then Aaron threw water on the flames, extinguished the fire, and went home.
How different would the world be today if that last part actually happened? We know that in the Bible, Aaron did not extinguish the fire or pour water onto the bush. We know of the amazing things that happened when one man’s insecurities were no match for the calling of a gracious God.
When I was rereading the calling of Moses recently, I paused and began to think about my own calling, my own failures, my own rejections and my own children.
A boy. A reality. A single. A call.
Perhaps the most painful experiences in my own life have been the times where it was someone else that snuffed the flames of hope in my heart.
Some dreams will take care of themselves. I wanted to be an astronaut at one point. Then I saw the Challenger blow up while in Kindergarten and decided I was good with sticking to Earth. At one point, I wanted to be a CIA agent. Then when I was reading the job description, I realized I would have to learn a second language and know how to use a gun. I decided those were not things I was interested in doing.
Other times, it was the direct result of interference or disinterest of another individual. I am not talking about “haters” that want to put you down out of spite. I am talking about people that God put in my life that had the full capabilities and capacity for helping me fulfill my dreams. And then, those very people that had the resources to help me answer my call, threw water on my flames and helped extinguish all hope.
Since I was young, I have always been musically creative. One of my favorite things to do was to buy “singles” from the music store. (For those of you that don’t know what that means, stop for a moment. Google “cassettes”, “music singles”, and “music store” and then come back to this article.) When you would purchase a single, the “A-Side” would have the song you were a fan of, usually the radio version and then the extended version. The “B-Side” was where the magic was. It usually featured one song that wasn’t good enough to make the full album (skip that reject of a song). After that, was always the instrumental version of the track from the “A-Side”.
The instrumental version of “The Humpty Dance” has been turned into SO MANY songs I created as a youth. I used it for school projects (Yertle the Turtle – The Hip Hop Experience). I used it for church projects (that was a little more awkward when other kids starting singing the chorus under their breath while the soloist was rapping about Luther’s 95 Thesis.)
As an adult, God has called me to be a worship leader and write the majority of the songs that I lead with. There is not a single doubt in my mind that this is a calling from God. When I gave my life completely to Christ at the age of 18, God made it clear that he was going to use me and the creative talents he gave me to reach people for Him. This was my “burning bush” calling.
Much like Moses, I have a small problem as well. While I am certainly capable of singing on key or crafting creative melodies, I don’t have the most “attractive” voice. I am more of a Bob Dylan than a Luther Vandross. Of course, people close to me will encourage me and tell me that they like the way I sing and to not say those kinds of things about myself. Congregations have never turned their backs on me or plugged their ears in my presence, so I have that going for me. The evidence of my calling has been revealed on countless occasions by the fruit that God has revealed throughout my 22 years of ministry. The calling has never been in doubt.
While I am currently employed as a children’s worship leader, I have unhindered access and resources to use my talents and answer God’s call as led by the Holy Spirit. Never satisfied, never content, always wanting more, God has given me a greater calling as well. God has continually placed on my heart and led me to write songs that adults would sing in worship as well. God has not called me to lead adults in worship but he has called me to write songs of worship for others to sing.
Much like Moses, I need an Aaron. Unfortunately, more often than not, I have been met with buckets of water instead of fanning of flames when trying to follow this particular calling. In simple words, rejection. Is rejection part of growing up? Yes. Is rejection part of the process? Yes. Is rejection extremely confusing and disheartening when it comes FROM people of shared faith with shared callings and shared resources that God has brought into your life? One million yesses.
Remember what it feels like. Remember the hope you once had. Remember how certain you were about your calling. Now use those experiences in your journey as a dad and be careful not to put out the flame in your own children.
A dad. A son. A dream. A failure.
(An excerpt from an actual conversation on the way home from an ordinary midweek baseball practice.)
“Daddy, do you think that (fill in the name of any Major League baseball player) was the best player on his team when he was a kid?”
“Not only was he the best player on his team, but he was also the best player in his league. He was probably the best player in high school and college. He probably was way better than any of the thousands of players in the Minor Leagues too. And he STILL was barely good enough to make it a career. This is why it is so important to do well in school, get good grades, and graduate from college.”
I then proceeded to name some of the people I knew that were exceptional baseball players throughout their entire life but never quite made a full career in professional sports. Now they are roofers, concrete salesmen, police officers, and middle school history teachers.
Probably not my finest moment as a parent. While nothing I said was particularly wrong, I was not answering the question at hand. His words said one thing, but his dream-filled heart was asking, “Daddy… do you think I could make it to the Major Leagues one day?”
It wasn’t until months later when my wife told me about a conversation she had with my son that I realized my failure on that day. My son, the dreamer, told her that he needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life because “he wasn’t even the best player on his team” and that “Daddy said that if I am not the best player now, I probably won’t make it as a pro.” My son was 10 at the time.
Ouch. Way to go dad.
In trying to protect my son from “probable” disappointment, I prevented him from dreaming big and believing that all things are possible. How often do we do this as parents?
Our intentions are good. We know the odds. We know the obstacles. We know the need to have a back-up plan. We know what it takes to make it in the “real world”. We also need to know how our visions of practicality may unintentionally be crushing the hopes and dreams of our greatest gifts, our own children.
Unintentionally crushing the dreams of my middle child is fixable over time. I know what was wrong with what I said, and I know how to fix it because I know my son like I know myself.
When OTHERS crush the dreams of your children, that is a little bit harder.
A son. A skill. A bully. A deletion.
When your child tells you that they want to be a teacher, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a pastor, or a business owner, you have no problem starting a college fund and pointing them in the right direction.
When your child tells you they want to be a professional YouTuber, it’s gets a little harder to keep a straight face. But if you are anything like me (part dreamer/part sucker), you go and buy your child the best camera, computer, lighting, microphone, and router you can afford.
My oldest son has a gift. He can create the most amazing videos with such seemingly little effort. Whether it is a family road trip, an intimate proposal or a montage of no-scope headshots in Fortnite (that hurts to type)… Whether it is a magic show, a toy reveal, or instructional animation video… My son has a gift. I watched his videos because they were good not just because he was my son. His YouTube videos were a perfect reflection of everything I creatively dreamed of being as a child but with the financial backing of an invested father, advancements in modern technology and a lot more skill. I could not have been more proud of the videos he produced and the content he created.
The encouragement of a doting father was no match for middle school.
Nothing is worse than seeing your kid get crushed by criticism and then overreacting and destroying everything he achieved up to that moment. My oldest son didn’t quit his YouTube aspirations because he didn’t have the right equipment. He didn’t quit because his parents didn’t believe in him. He didn’t quit because he calculated the odds of financial solvency and declared it to be economically unfeasible.
He quit because ONE kid at school kept making fun of him and showing his videos to people during class in a mocking manner. He had hundreds of subscribers, thousands of views, and immeasurable memories packed into his channel. Meticulously edited videos of family vacations, school events, musical performances, and countless other creations born of his brilliance were all gone in the broken-hearted click of a delete button. Gone forever because of ONE kid whose crummy character crushed the dreams of MY child.
I think the part that hurt me the most about the YouTube incident, is that my son reacted as a middle school student the exact same way I react as an adult. He did what people with broken hearts do. He crumbled.
Lessons in Impracticality
As dads, let us never forget the power of impracticality. In my failures as a parent, I often forget the motivation that accompanies dreams. I forget how easy it is to squash the hopes of others with such little effort. Our children are way smarter than we give them credit for. They know the odds. They know the struggles. They know the obstacles. And they don’t care about ANY of that! All they need is someone to believe in them. As dads, is it really that hard?
We must remember that most dreams are impractical by definition in many ways. They are based on many unknowns. Encourage your kids to dream big without putting limits on their aspirations or giving them statistics that dagger their desires.
In your heart, even if you don’t think it is a good idea, let them discover their limits on their own without being the one to put the doubts in their mind. When life’s greatest accomplishments come their way, we want to be an image of gratitude in their heart. We don’t want to become one of the obstacles they had to overcome.
As a dreamer and the father of three dreamers, I have made myself this brief list to help me on this journey. I hope the examples above will help you to reflect on your own dreams for yourself and of your children. I hope the suggestions below will help guide you on your journey as a dad.
- Don’t begrudge them and act like their dreams are an annoyance or hindrance to your plans.
- Don’t tell them to “keep it down” or “turn it off immediately” if it really isn’t causing any harm.
- Don’t start a battle of your control vs. their creativity.
- Support and encourage them in their failures and successes.
- Pray that God would use their talents and interest for HIS glory… eventually. (Think about the things you are skilled at – Did you start honoring God with it from day one?)
- Not all talents and callings are ministry related. Therefore, pray that the methods and ethics they use as they follow their dreams would be honoring of God.
- Human approval does not equal a fulfilled calling. Earthly success is NOT evidence of God’s blessing. It can be, but success on its own is not an indicator of fulfillment.
Lastly, for yourself and your children…
- Pray that our kids will learn that human rejection does not equal a canceled calling. And then pray that again… and again… and again…
A dad. His boys. A fire. A prayer.
Can the hand that shapes the heavens – and the words that shake the earth
And the blood that brings redemption – Give me a sense of worth?
Can the name that melts the nations – and the shout that shatters kings
And the whispers of forgiveness – Accept this offering?
Can the fire that calls the chosen – and the flood that cleanses sin
And the clouds of transformation – Bring me peace within?
Can the touch that heals the broken – And the hungry that are fed
And the echoes of creation – Raise me from the dead?