dreams and vision: there’s a difference

In my musings by Antwuan Malone

I’m typically a late responder to things. Most of the times, in the moment, I process through a situation… but the emotions come days after (if at all).

I think it is important to draw a distinction between what a dream is, and what the vision of a calling is. I suppose in one sense a (day)dream and a vision could be synonymous… assuming we are talking about something we actually see with our eyes (kinda).

But the difference between being a dreamer and being a visionary is significant. In fact, I’d offer that to call one’s vision (especially when it’s come from God) a “dream” is to demote and change the focus of the vision altogether. And here’s why.

The way I see it, dreams are often self-driven, and sometimes self-centered. My son may have a “dream” of playing in the NFL. He has this dream because, for him, it would be awesome to make a living and be popular while doing the thing he loves to do… which would be to play football. One would hardly call such a dream a “vision.” No. Visions carry a more urgent tone. A vision might be to become a NFL player, so you can make the money and have the influence to change a community’s social situation. See the difference. In this sense, the NFL is one of many methods to fulfill the ultimate vision, which is not to play football, but to change the community.

Perhaps this is a remnant of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech. Where he lays out a vision for the future of our country, using “dream” verbiage. I suppose that’s the reason I have asked the question whether we really think his “dream” is truly feasible. Because, unspoken expectation of dreams are usually that they are unlikely to happen.

I bring this distinction to the forefront because I have become particularly frustrated with the way my call to ministry is perceived. I’ve only expressed the calling God has placed on my life, and the vision he has laid before me to a few people. And I am surprised at the reaction. Well, if I’m honest, surprised is not the word that best fits. Frustrated is more like it.

My Dream

Let me speak frankly. My dream is to become a published Christian writer. I want to be published, and I’d love to spend my time fleshing out and writing books around the many ideas that come flying through my head. And in turn, I’d love to speak about those writings around the country… the world even. I’d love the network with other writers, and I’d love to help spur along new writers. I’d love to use that particular gift in such a way that it supports my family.

That’s my dream. And to this point, you are a part of making that dream a reality by reading this blog, and maybe spreading the word. But that is it.

My calling and my vision are quite different. While I feel that I have a certain level of writing talent that could make my dream come true, I feel inadequate for the calling God has placed before me. As an introverted loner who doesn’t connect extremely well with people, I find it interesting that God has called me to served young adults the ages 18-31. How odd of God. And further, that he has equipped me with a vision that involves community building and social relationships as a bridge to Christian discipleship. Doubly odd. What’s an introverted loner have to do with creating community? Even more, I’ve never been to college, but He has undoubtedly and very clearly called me to serve college-aged students as well as those in the late twenties. Are we seeing a pattern?

My calling and vision is in no way my dream. If it were up to my natural inclinations, I would not imagine filling my time trying to gather young adults together in community. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s just not the natural inclination for my personality. And yet, God has so clearly and thoroughly etched into my heart a passion to serve young adults that I cannot run from it. I’ve tried. And every time I have, the proverbial “big fish” swallows me up and spits me back into the their direction.

So when I hear an accusation of a ministry being my “pursuit of my dream,” I am frustrated at the idea that I am somehow being ambitious, motivated by my desires. 

Ministry Burden

After a year of re-entering into ministry, (and entering for the first time into vocational ministry) I must say I’m learning quite a bit. Perhaps I’ll blog about some of things later. But if nothing else, I’ve learned that ministry is a burden. Look, God told and showed Moses about The Promised Land. He didn’t show all of Israel. God came to Gideon about the vision to go into war. He didn’t come to the 300 that ended up going with him, or the multitude that was sent home.

The point is, illogical and frustrating as it may seem to me, God seems to call few to a vision (his vision). It’d be so much easier if he just told everybody who needs to be involved, but he doesn’t. God came to Saul, and change him to Paul. He didn’t come to anyone else (that we know of) that way. And like the case with Paul, Moses and just about any other prophet or regular person called by God to a specific vision, it requires a change in direction. And often times, those who are called feel unqualified or hesitant to be obedient.

God’s calling for me is a burden. It’s inexhaustible ball of fire, burning inside. It’s there whether I like it or not. It’s there whether I feel supported or alone. It’s there when I want to throw in the towel. It’s there in the moments when I don’t know who’s with me, who I can trust, or what the next step it. It’s burden. A cross to bear. And I pray that God’s Spirit will continue to guide and encourage me in my moments of weakness. I pray there is always a big fish to spit my back in the right direction, should flee the wrong direction. Amen?  Amen.

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.