I’m at a crossroads in my life. This year has been the first in eight years that I haven’t had one of my littles with me every moment of the day. The last twelve months have been great but also unsettled. I’m scared to take a step in a new direction. I’m scared to mess up and spill the full cup of potential I’ve been dreaming about for years.
Once upon a time a wise pastor asked me how steady my hand was with the cup God had given me. He lifted his hand from his side and gently shook an invisible cup before steadying it. At the time he was counseling me as I struggled with two choices and the patience required for the choice I thought was best but hardest. After talking to him I found strength to steady myself and the image of the cup stuck with me.
I started thinking about the dreams God had laid on my heart over the years. So many times I had eagerly lifted an empty cup up to Jesus in prayer, asking him to fill it with whatever he had for me. The thing is, I wasn’t so good at holding those dreams and letting them grow until the proper time. I had a long stubborn history of spilling the cup at the wrong time.
I’ve had a habit of taking what God has given me and running off with it. Rather than continuing to offer it back to him, I would grab those baby dreams and bolt with the idea, pushing to make them happen in my own time.
I don’t want to do that anymore. Slowly, I’m learning what it looks like to hold a full cup and be okay with living in not yet. I haven’t had much success with this cup holding thing because, well, I’m a stubborn, bull-headed steamroller who wants to get things done in my time, not God’s.
This summer as I’ve cautiously prayed about the next step and whether it’s time to start pouring out a new cup, I’ve been drawn to Joseph’s story. He was, after all, one of the most famous dreamers of all time.
If you’re not familiar with Joseph you can get the full story here: Genesis 37-50. I’ll paraphrase but my version won’t be nearly as good as the original.
Joseph, the Dreamer
Joseph was a seventeen-year-old, sheep herding dreamer. He was one of the youngest of his family with twelve older brothers who literally hated him. His dad, Jacob (aka Israel), loved him most of all the brothers and thus, gave him a super sweet colorful coat and his brothers hated him even more (Parenting 101: Don’t do that).
Then one day Joseph had some dreams. Literal dreams, while he was sleeping and told his family like any of us might (they were just dreams after all, right?).
Joseph shared the dreams of his older brothers, even his mother and father, bowing down to him. Well, his brothers were pretty upset about it.
That’s putting it mildly. Some of his brothers actually plotted to kill him. Ultimately, they settled on selling him into slavery, pocketing the cash, and telling their dad, Jacob he had been killed by animals.
Now, in my mind that is a picture of some utterly destroyed dreams.
But the story wasn’t quite done yet. Joseph ended up being carted off to Egypt and sold again to a guy named Potiphar. Joseph was so effective that he was put in charge of the whole household. After some vicious lies were spread about him he ended up in prison, where he again, was so effective he was put in charge of the prison while there.
Finally, 13 years later, Joseph was released from prison, rose to power in Egypt, effectively ran the entire empire for the Pharaoh, and saved God’s people in the process. Oh, and remember those crazy dreams of his family bowing before him? Yeah, that happened.
Hope for the Dreamers: 2 Lesson’s from Joseph
1. God can and does redeem spilled dreams.
Joseph was absolutely wronged, no denying it. However, he also wasn’t a completely innocent victim. Joseph was an impatient, prideful young man who didn’t really know what to do with the cup God was revealing to him.
In his arrogance and ignorance, he spilled the dreams onto his family. His ill-timed action ran down on them like hot lava, putting them at their boiling point.
While I bleakly consider Joseph’s failings, I simultaneously find so much hope in his story. God put a dream on his heart over a decade before it was to happen. Joseph certainly flailed about with those dreams, but he loved God and continued to follow Him as he stumbled along.
It seemed like a spilled dream that was lost forever but God was working to redeem that plan for Joseph and for His people.
This gives me hope for the dreams I have taken and run with on my own. Those dreams I thought were gone forever. God can still redeem them and use them in his time.
2: Keep chasing after God- Become worthy of the calling God has on one’s life.
Joseph spilled his dreams and soon after, his brothers committed a great evil against him. That’s a pivotal point in Joseph’s story. However, after studying it longer, I no longer find myself focusing on just those moments.
It’s the next 13 years I’m interested in.
He lived as a man after God’s heart, working with all his strength for his masters, with character, honor, and integrity and he became a man worthy of the dreams of that 17 year old boy.
That’s a lifestyle worth emulating as we hold (and even spill) our dreams.
“Not Yet” is Okay
After twenty-four years of cleaning up spills from the cups I had poured out at the wrong time. This last nine years, I’ve been trying to understand how to hold my hand steady with the cups God has given me.
I’m learning what it means to live well and to live fully as a follower of Jesus in not yet. Not yet, has felt like some sort of half-life, a piece of what is to come, a piece of my full potential in Christ.
However, these times of not yet, these times of waiting might just be the most important because I’m not only learning what God has for me but how to continue to offer it back to Him daily. How to learn to walk with Him as I process what it looks like to pour out that cup at the proper time.
Questions to Ponder
- Spend some time thinking and praying about dreams God has put on your heart over the years.
– How have your responded to those dreams and ideas in the past?
– How did you follow God well in those times?
– What opportunities do you have to improve those journeys?
– Are there places you need to ask God’s forgiveness and redemption in those stories?
- Is God preparing a new dream for you?
– If so, consider what it looks like to continue to walk with Him as you progress down that road.