I was thinking about my previous post about waiting and it reminded me of something else. I remember years ago when I was in my first church leadership setting that I was reflecting and praying about the future and how things might develop. I wasn't sure whether it was time to move or whether we were to stay in that place for the foreseeable future.
A wise person said to me, "Don't let the size of the task keep you here." Their point was that there would always be something that needed doing, always a reason to stay. I had my dreams, a vision for the church and what we could become as long as we walked with God. I may not have articulated it in the words I'd use today, but it would have been along the lines of partnership with God in whatever he was doing in our community. We had a passion to figure out how to reconnect people with the God who misses them and we were exploring how we could that. I'm sure that if we'd stayed we would have found our way towards the kinds of things I've been discovering over the 20 years since I left that place.
The turning point for me came as I was working my way through the story of David. I came to the part of his story where he decided it was time to build a temple. David had great plans, he had the dream, the vision to build a permanent home for the Ark. It wasn't about him and his achievements, but about his relationship with God. Although I can't quite track down the specific verse (I have a note somewhere in a journal form that time), the phrase that has stayed with me since the day I read it goes something like this: It was good that he had it in his heart... David was not going to get to build the temple.
I realised then that two things were true. Firstly, I was not going to stay and see the fulfilment of the dream or vision for the church at that time. It was not going to mine to build. Perhaps God knew I didn't need an empire! The second thing I realised was that God remembers and honours the dreams of his people. My vision wasn't wasted, even if it wasn't realised. It's okay to have an unfulfilled dream.
I know that some people might look at my ministry and see a list of failures, of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities. I think that too from time to time. But what I remember and what I hold on to is that it was good to have had it in my heart to do something great for God. I'd rather have an unrealised dream than no dream at all, and after all is said and done it's not about my dreams, it's about God's grand plan, his mission among the people he misses most.