I've suffered from a really bad case of myopia - or near-sightedness - most of my life. For years, I've been aware of this new procedure called LASIK that promised to correct my vision, but it was just the idea of someone cutting my eye open and firing a laser into it that has really turned me off all these years. Finally, as an early Christmas gift to myself - I decided to go ahead and go through with the surgery. For those of you who might not be as familiar with it, let me tell you how LASIK works.
First you show up at the eye surgeon's office and they put some medicated numbing drops in your eyes. Thank God for those! You're going to need them. Then they prop your top and bottom eyelids open so you can't blink. Next, there is a tubular looking device that is guided directly onto your eyeball and a light suction secures the eye properly into place. In order to get to the lens of your eye, your cornea has to be moved out of the way. So they make a flap in your cornea with a wavelength laser. Once that's over, they wheel you around to another different kind of laser that will actually perform the LASIK procedure. The surgeon then takes some tweezers and lifts open your corneal flap. Are you grossed out yet?
The laser that actually does the re-shaping of your eye lens is actually pretty fascinating. It's really a loud, high-intensity light that ablates and forms your lens into the shape it needs to be in depending on your prescription needs. As they're doing the procedure, you're told to focus on the red light and you might even smell a strange odor that reminds you of burning hair... but there's nothing to worry. That's just the smell of the inside of your eye ball on fire. Nothing to see here.
Now I might be a little bit of a melodramatic hypochondriac, but there is something about having this eye procedure done that taught me a lesson about vision. I'm not talking about being able to see with your physical eyes, but your God-given ability to see things from God's perspective. Well, the following day, I was scheduled to go in on Christmas Eve for my 24 hour post-op appointment. The surgeon did a number of things, including making sure that my corneal flap was in position and healing properly. And of course, I had to do the preliminary eye exam to see just how much my vision had actually improved. So the doctor had me read the last and smallest line on the eye chart. I squinted and strained, closed one eye at a time, and was eventually able to make out all of the smallest of letters on the chart. But I was still a little bit discouraged, because I knew I could have easily read it if I still had my contacts or glasses on me prior to the operation. Then the surgeon said something I'll never forget. He said, "Brandon, I've already given you 20-20 vision, but you're going to have to wait several weeks before you get clarity." Now isn't that an interesting statement. The new vision was already there, but I was going to have to be patient and wait for the clarity.
Isn't that exactly how God works? He first gives us a dream that He places within our heart - but the clarity on that dream comes later as we walk in continued dependency upon Him.
I've noticed that every person's dream is different - but all great God-given dreams are cultivated in the same soil. If you want God to give you more clarity on the dream that He's placed within you, practice these four habits of God-inspired dreamers:
- Dream with God in prayer. One of the purposes of prayer is to have a conversation with God about the dreams that He has put in your heart. Dreaming is a form of praying. When you talk to God, He wants to hear about your dreams. Without talking about your dreams, your prayer life really has little content. Maybe this is why so much of our prayer life is weak, vain, selfish, and useless. Did you know that some prayers even make God angry? In Isaiah 1:11, God says, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" In other words, there's no content to your prayers. God's saying, "You're fasting and praying but I'm not paying attention because your prayers lack a purpose." Dreamless prayer is impotent prayer. If you're never had a healthy prayer time with God - maybe it's perhaps because you've never talked to Him about your dreams.
- Dreams grow in the soil of a grateful heart. The idea of giving praise to God conjures up many different ideas to many different people. But God is less concerned with the "how" of praise and more concerned with the "heart" of praise. I read something about praise this past week that really piqued my interest. Jesus said in Matthew 21:16, "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, You have perfected praise." Now isn't that interesting. Jesus says that praise is "perfected" by little children. The most mature praise on this planet comes from a little child. How can this be? It's because "perfected praise" is simply first-time praise. It springs from the same realization and wonder we feel whenever we experience something for the first time. That's why we love watching babies and toddlers experience new things as they grow. We may even videotape our kids reaction when they taste the sweet savor of watermelon for the first time. We love to see the awe and wonder in our child's eyes whenever they experience something fresh and new. And it's this moment of fresh discovery and wonder that Jesus is talking about when He speaks of "perfected praise."
So how do we go about living out our lives in this way? Simple. Approach everything you do as if you were doing it for the very first time and let the awe, eagerness, and wonder of it all swell within you - becoming praise and gratitude back to God.
- Dreams are cultivated as God's Word transforms and renews our minds daily. Joshua 1:8 tells us that the level of success we will see in this life is directly tied to our commitment to meditating on Scripture. The third habit of dreamers is that they let God's truth shape their thoughts and ideas rather than allowing the influences around you to shape them. As we go through life, we fit ourselves to many forms. Every one of us who is reading this article is viewing it from a certain set of opinions, outlooks, and perspectives that were formed by a number of factors. The question is not "will your mind be formed" but what will form it? Scripture says that we are to be transformed "by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). Allow God's Word to speak over your mind - chipping away at the unnecessary details that need to go and reframing and recalibrating what needs to stay.
- Dreams are developed by networking with other dreamers. The fourth habit of big dreamers is that they share their dreams and plans with others who will sharpen, develop, and inspire them. I believe you only discover a small handful of friends like this in a lifetime. I'm grateful for my friend Phillip Kelley (Chaplain of the Kansas City Chiefs) as he and I get together every week to share life and talk about the plans, goals, and dreams that God has placed within our hearts. We sharpen each other and provide feedback on our ideas. Every time I leave the coffee shop after our weekly meeting, I feel so encouraged because I know that God has used him to grow me just a little bit more towards reaching the goals and dreams the Lord has placed on my heart.
So I want to encourage you today to start practicing the "four habits of highly effective dreamers." God may have already given you a new vision - but unless you cultivate these four disciplines, you may never see that vision with 20/20 clarity.