When my wife and I first got married as a couple of kids who moved to Nashville to chase our dreams, she vowed to be my biggest fan. At the time I thought it was nothing more than a sentimental idea. But it was much more than that.
Years later, when I was in the midst of trying to become a full-time writer, I forgot that promise. I shouldn’t have, but I did.
It was at a conference about chasing your dream that I started to wake up. One of the speakers asked us to raise our hands if we didn’t know what our dream was. So I did. Then he said, “I believe you do know what your dream is. You’re just scared to admit it.”
I immediately put my hand down. It was trembling. And with it, I wrote one word in my notebook: “writer.”
That night I rushed home to my wife, Ashley, to share with her my dream. “Jeff,” She sighed. “I’ve been telling you that for years.” I admitted she was right and went to sleep.
Shortly after that, a friend asked what my dream was.
“Well,” I said, “I guess it’s to be a writer.”
He just looked at me and said, “Jeff, you don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer. You just need to write.”
Maybe he was right. Maybe faith really is the substance of things not seen. Maybe you have to believe something before you can become it.
Maybe activity follows identity.
I shared this profound truth I had stumbled upon with Ashley. And once again she sighed. “Are you kidding me?!” She asked. “I’ve been asking when you’re going to write a book. Why does it take someone else telling you something for you to listen?”
I kissed her, opened my laptop, and began writing.
For the following year, I woke up at five a.m. almost every day and wrote for 365 days straight. I started a blog, got a book contract, and began making a living off my passion. It was an incredible year, one I will never forget.
But it was also a year of frustration. Every night I’d stay up late to work on the next day’s blog post. And some time after midnight, my wife would call from our bedroom for me to come upstairs.
And I would ignore her.
Because secretly I was believing a lie that holds you back from fulfilling your calling.
I thought my wife was the enemy of my dream.
We all do this sometimes, I think. We believe those closest to us don’t want us to succeed. And this attitude can corrupt the best of intentions.
Why do we this? I think it’s fear. Fear of vulnerability. Of being known. Those closest to us have the greatest potential to wound us. They can discourage us, and shoot our dreams down because they know what wounds us. This is the cost of being known, of being loved.
In my case, I wanted to write and inspire people and support my family, but the thing I was trying to protect — my family — was the very thing I was destroying. And I almost missed it.
The day my first book was published, my wife threw a surprise party for me. I came home after work to a house full of people. And on the table next to a pile of cupcakes with my book cover in decorative frosting was a card. I opened it. Inside, it said: “it was never a question of if but always a matter of when.”
That’s when I got it.
I always thought your dream was something private, something you didn’t dare tell somebody else about. I was wrong. A dream doesn’t belong to you. Your calling isn’t about it. You are a caretaker of the dream, a steward of the calling you’ve received. And it’s up to you to live a life worthy of it. Which includes loving well those around you.
Don’t make the same mistake I made. Don’t make your greatest supporters into your worst enemies. Your spouse is not the enemy of your dream.
Was there ever a time when you chased a dream at the cost of a relationship? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.
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