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Freedom to Dream: What If the Only Thing Holding You Back Is You?

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Growing up, my favorite Bible heroines were always the women who boldly stared fear in the face and won, trusting God through it. I read the stories of Esther, Deborah and Mary over and over, hoping to emulate just a little bit of their leadership virtues.

Recently, another lady’s story has begun to capture my heart’s attention, sharing the truth that sometimes bravery and courage and gumption looks like opening clenched fists and releasing our deepest dreams to the One who created them in the first place.

1 Samuel depicts the story of Hannah, a woman with a dream bursting within her heart, but one that she couldn’t’ physically conceive—a baby of her own. Ridiculed, ashamed and at her wits end, she unclenched her fists and released the dream she was gripping so tightly to God:

“Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow: Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.” (1 Samuel 1:10-11, MSG)

In the midst of a seemingly impossible situation, Hannah looked at the dreams within her heart and discovered that she couldn’t make or force them to happen on her own—she needed to trust Someone much bigger than herself. Here’s what I love about Hannah’s story and what is captivating my heart: Hannah poured out every drop of her heart in the presence of God—every painful moment, every tear, every insecurity, every fear, every hope—and 1 Samuel 1:18 says she left her time of prayer “her face radiant”. Hannah didn’t have new information, a sign that her baby would come or an audible promise from God. But in opening her hands and embracing a lionhearted posture with the dreams of her heart before God, God did something greater in her. He filled her with immediate peace, regardless of what the outcome might be. She was consumed with a fresh, deep, abiding joy.

When Hannah left that day, she didn’t know that she would indeed see her heart’s dreams come true—she had no idea she would conceive a son—but she left trusting God deeply and that was enough for her.

That’s where I want to live. Rather than clinging tightly to what I want to see happen, I want to live out a lionhearted kind of faith, trusting the Creator of my dreams with their completion, ultimately trusting Him to do something in me so much greater than I could ever do myself.

When it comes to the dreams of my heart, there are a few questions I’m asking myself to hold myself accountable to the action steps that are appropriate for me to control, keep my mind and heart in check, and trust God with the things I can’t control:

  1. What are my dreams?
  2. How am I pursuing my dreams?
  3. Are my fists clenched or are my hands open?
  4. What voices am I listening to?
  5. What voices do I need to stop listening to?
  6. What is the posture of my heart?
  7. What is God saying to me today?
  8. Who am I becoming?

I’m beginning to learn that dreams were never really about me showing up and doing something or making something happen. Dreams are a whole lot more about what God is doing in me, in my heart, and how I’m becoming the woman He made me to be.

Sometimes I wonder what Hannah’s life would have looked like if her story had ended differently—what if her dreams of having a son weren’t fulfilled? Would she have remained radiant, at peace, trusting God? We may never know what would have or could have happened, but I do know that for my story, if my ending doesn’t turn out exactly how I hope, dream and plan, I want with every fiber in my being to remain rooted in who I am and Whose I am. I don’t want to succumb to lies of doubt and fear and worry and insecurity. I don’t want to doubt the goodness and greatness of God. Because at the end of the road, what God is doing in me is so much greater than anything I can hope and dream and plan for. Dreaming is a whole lot more about who I’m becoming than what I’m doing. So friends, today let’s lace up our boots and unclench our fists, trusting the Creator of our dreams with their completion and to do a beautiful work inside of us.

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