DO YOU KNOW I AM AFRAID TO DREAM BIG?
He Is Worthy
Last week I went to London and Paris.
Before you get carried away with dreamy visions of romance and strolling violinists, let me explain. Last week I went to Europe with my daughter Taylor and thirty other students and chaperones from her school. All very great people. An itinerary that would make you drool. But, alas, it was January.
I travel all the time, mostly around this country, but several times a year internationally. And it is no exaggeration for me to tell you that those eight days in Europe were, hands down, the most difficult travel of my entire life.
Sure, we started well, giddy at the airport, packed for cold weather, and armed with umbrellas, French dictionaries, and a good dose of “can do” spirit. We dreamed of hot tea and scones, Trafalgar Square, the Palace of Versailles, and chocolate crepes. Merveilleux!
But did I tell you that it was January? Did I mention the hostel outside London with the cross-dressing party in the lobby? Make that the freezing-cold hostel, two subway rides from the city. It was the craziest kind of trip, where the subways were randomly closed and we just walked and walked and walked … in the cold and rain … everywhere. Most days we were away from our rooms about fourteen hours. Everyone was completely exhausted and trying desperately to hang on to an adventurer spirit. But the truth of it was, most every day was hard.
But all the days together could not compare to last Tuesday.
Last Tuesday we departed our hotel around eight in the morning. The first two subway rides were frustrated by the same trouble we had every day. Each trip, one of our kids would be stuck on the other side of a turnstile with a ticket that wouldn’t let him through. There were several again that morning. But finally, we were there. The Louvre Museum. And that day we had come to see the Mona Lisa! Our group huddled outside the Louvre in umbrella-breaking wind, waiting for the tour guide to return with our tickets. We couldn’t wait to be inside, wandering around in the warmth, staring at the great works that awaited. At last our tour guide returned. Closed. I am not kidding, the Louvre was closed. But only on Tuesdays in December and January.
Our dreams were squashed. But it was just a couple of subway rides over to the Champs-Élysée—a beautiful outdoor boulevard lined with upscale shopping. At the end of this amazing place is the Arch of Triumph, a must-see, even in the bitter weather. So I rustled up my pack of kids, we pulled our hoods tight, and using umbrellas to shield us from the incoming rain, we forged into the wind and made a path toward the arch. The rain was blinding by the time we reached this famous landmark. I yelled to my kids, “Caannn yoouuu seeee it?”
Through chattering teeth they replied, “Yesss.”
“Taaake a picturrrre,” I said. Click. Click. We turned our backs to the wind. Umbrellas down. We ducked into the nearest bistro for hot chocolate until it was time for the next assignment from our tour guide.
Next stop, the Eiffel Tower. By the time we got there it was raining, spitting snow, and the wind was blowing at what was later reported to be hurricane force. At the bottom of the tower, there were only a few other tourists and us. Finally being there was nothing like you dream it will be. No strolling musicians. No hot crepes. No souvenir stand to buy berets. Nothing. The Parisians were all inside like sane people should be.
I know you may think I am exaggerating, but we have the video to prove it. The kids looked like reporters from the Weather Channel, standing in front of the fog-soaked tower, holding onto anything for dear life, while the unrelenting winds threatened to lift them off their feet. Now this is the craziest part: in that kind of weather, the Eiffel Tower was still open. Not the very top, hallelujah, but high enough—two elevator stops up.
I thought, There is no way we are going up in this thing. It can’t be safe to be any higher in these winds. Surely we should just go find somewhere warm and dry. But high school hearts prevailed and you guessed it, we loaded up all those kids for an elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower. Taylor turned away from the window and buried her head in my coat. “Mom, this is more like the tower of terror,” she said with a laugh.
At the second stop, we were all blown out through the open doors, laughing and half-crying over the awful weather and our plight. There we were, standing around the edge of the Eiffel Tower looking out into the fog, scared of the swaying signs, frozen by the wind and snowy rain, wondering what in the world we had done. It was awful and exhilarating at the same time. Thank goodness for the tiny gift shop way up there in the sky. We all piled in and bought little Eiffel Tower key chains, ran to the outside concession stand for more hot chocolate, and just plain huddled together until it was time to leave.
It was awful and exhilarating at the same time.
The trip down the elevator and the walk back to the subway were the rotten chocolate on the frozen crepe. More scary wind and freezing rain. By the time we got on the train, everyone was soaked to the bone through their coats and shoes. Drenched, crazy, exhausted Americans. As we rode along underneath Paris, the adults looked at one another and began to ask, “Why in the world did we just do that?” Good grief, it was kind of dumb, and yet, we had plowed along, taking those kids up in the Eiffel Tower.
Eventually we decided why we had persevered. One of the teachers said it first. For most of the thirty-two on our trip, this would be the only time they would ever see Paris, and today was the only day in a lifetime they would ever visit the Eiffel Tower. And in just a moment, we didn’t feel dumb anymore. We felt like conquerors. Soaked and weary and victorious. Today, if you asked those kids what their favorite memory of our trip was, every one of them would tell you, “The night we almost died on the Eiffel Tower.”
That night, back in my warm Parisian bed, I basked in the understanding that the whole wet, tiring day was worth it. It was once in a lifetime for most of us. One opportunity to see the Eiffel Tower and one trip to pack in as many memories as we could. One dream come true. Then I realized the same is true in our relationship with God. We have one lifetime. One short amount of time to do all that He has intended for us to do. One heart to surrender. One passionate mission. One offering of all that I am.
Maybe you hear yourself say to God, “Do You know that I’m afraid to dream big? Do you know that I’m scared of swaying Eiffel Towers? And walking through storms? And commitment to things that are bigger than me?” The truth is, on my own, I might have gone to Paris and stayed in my room that stormy day, missing everything. I probably would have settled for a warm bath and snuggled up with a book. And there, very safe and dry in my hotel room, I would have missed the once-in-a-lifetime adventure and the victory of a dream fulfilled.
Here is the thing I never want to forget. With this one lifetime, I am called to follow Jesus. No hesitation. No holding back. I am called to follow Him with everything my personality and mind can give to Him. To be a passionate woman who runs hard after God.
I am called to dream big. And so are you.
Here is the reason: Our God is worthy.
I AM Your God Who Is Worthy
I’m sure you know firsthand that this world is a dream stealer. Just about the time you decide to head for the Eiffel Tower dream in your life, hurricane-force storms blow through to discourage your plans. The weary heart and the exhausted body can decide to play it safe. Your head might reason, “Turn around and go home. It’s too dark out here. This journey is too hard. What if something goes terribly wrong?”
I guess I’ve used that argument a million times or more. Little gusts of difficulty and gale-force winds of rejection have turned me back time and again. But I am learning, in these middle years, that God does not intend our lives to unwind and taper off. We have been given one lifetime, and He purposes that we keep growing, keep improving, keep building His kingdom, and keep dreaming of how we might make His glory known.
We are supposed to persevere. Struggle on. Climb the mountain. Follow through. Carry on. Go the distance. Run the race. It’s just that sometimes I forget why. Mostly I forget who God is. And frequently, I forget who I am in Him.
God does not intend our lives to unwind and taper off.
In the book of Revelation, John writes, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). Because we are created by God and because we have our being in Him, He is worthy of our worship. Worthy to have our lives bring glory to Him. Worthy of every honor each day can bestow upon Him. Worthy of powerful work and love done in His name. The message of Scripture is loud—do you hear it? God is worthy. There are two parts to this declaration:
One—God’s very nature is worthy of all glory and honor and power.
Two—You and I are called to live every single day with God’s character in view.
We have each been given a tremendous opportunity with this gift from God called a lifetime. With our lives, we are called to bring Him all glory and honor and praise.
Why should we dream big dreams for our lives? Because God is worthy.
Why should we keep trying to become more mature followers of Christ? Because God is worthy.
Why should a woman work really hard to keep a healthy soul? And dream of a healthy marriage? And long for a healthy home? Because God is worthy.
Why should we choose to live meaningful, compassionate, other-centered lives, giving our talents and our love away? Because God is worthy.
We are called to follow Jesus Christ and dream big dreams in His name. Because God is worthy. God is worthy. God is worthy.
Until we stand in eternity with our Lord, our calling means that we do what has been entrusted to us and that we do it for Him. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1). I love the beautiful paraphrase of The Message: “I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere.”
Because He is worthy, we are supposed to live worthy. This calling means spending the rest of our lives seeking to know God, purposing to learn His truth through Scripture, and then living like we remember who God is.
No strolling off down some path that goes nowhere!
In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul writes about the blessings of being a child of God. These chapters contain doctrines of our faith, outlining all that we, as believers, have received from God’s goodness. But Paul makes a turn at chapter 4. In the first verse he writes: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
Being worthy is God’s nature. Living worthy is our calling.
Most theologians agree that here, the word then would be better translated as therefore. Essentially, Paul is saying, “Therefore, go live a life worthy of everything I just taught you about God.” Being worthy is God’s nature. Living worthy is our calling.
The first three chapters of Ephesians are packed full of God’s gifts to us. Look at what you have received:
God has provided you with every spiritual blessing. (1:3)
You were chosen by God for God. (1:4)
Your life is redeemed and your sins are forgiven. (1:7)
You are sealed by the Holy Spirit. (1:13–14)
God gives you a glorious inheritance and His incomparably great power. (1:18–19)
You are made alive in Christ. (2:5)
By grace you are saved. It has nothing to do with your works. (2:8)
God prepared good works for you to do. (2:10)
You are not far away from God anymore. (2:13)
Christ is your peace. (2:14)
You have access to the Father by the Spirit. (2:18)
You have union with other believers. (2:19)
You are indwelt by the Spirit. (2:22)
You are an heir to the promises of Christ Jesus. (3:6)
You can approach God with freedom and confidence. (3:12)
You can be filled to the measure of all fullness. (3:19)
God is able to do more than all you ask or imagine. (3:20)
I don’t know if you just zipped through that list or if you lingered, but either way, I urge you to go back and reread the list of gifts God promises to you. Maybe it would mean more to insert your name before you read each promise.
Can you believe God? How good He is to us. His gifts to us are wonderful and extravagant. I hope that brief list made you pause. I hope your spirit was reminded of who God is. I hope you remembered that God is worthy of a life well lived. A big life, with big dreams.
In the book to the Ephesians, and right now, today, Paul writes across our lives, “Therefore.” He says, You have been given much and God is so worthy, therefore, go live a great big life worthy of your calling in Christ Jesus.
Our calling is not supposed to be restrained or squandered or hidden. God calls us to so much more. He wants us to live like He is worthy.
Multiply Your Talents
Jesus uses a parable in the book of Matthew to explain what God desires of us. It’s called the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30). Before we jump into the Scripture, I have to tell you that just rereading this story has moved me to tears. Personal, deep tears. Today, I am truly writing to you from my own longing and the truth I know. Everything in me wants all that God has for me. I want to live fully devoted to Him, faithful to take risks for His name and ready to step out in faith wherever He calls. I want to dream big all the time. I want to pursue my own personal growth and dream big for my husband, my children, and my ministry.
But fear has always been my enemy.
Studying this parable today reminds me afresh that fear can keep me from dreaming in multiples for God. And He is so very worthy of my gifts being multiplied for His glory.
Fear was the enemy in Jesus’ story too. The parable goes something like this:
There was a master with three servants. The master was going away for a very long time, so he gave each one of his servants some of his property. To the first one he gave five talents (a very large sum of money), to the second one he gave two talents, and to the last servant he gave one talent. Each was entrusted with an amount according to his abilities. And then the master left.
The first two servants doubled the master’s money while he was away. The third one dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s property.
After a long time away, the master returned and called his servants in to settle up with them. The first two servants were able to tell the master they had doubled his investment. And to those two, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:21, 23)
Next it was the hole digger’s turn, the servant who had buried the one talent that was given to him. The servant said to his master, “I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent” (verse 25, MESSAGE). The master was furious with the last servant and said to him,
That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest. Take the [talent] and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.
—VERSES 26–30 (MESSAGE)
The words of the master to the third servant ring loud in my heart. Living cautiously, playing it safe, afraid to go out on a limb. I think my tears came because I long to live worthy of everything God has invested in me. Our beautiful Lord deserves multiplied talent, multiplied blessing, and multiplied glory. Oh, merciful Father, please forgive this play-it-safe girl. I want to be more.
When the master leaves a servant in charge during his absence, he does not expect to find him waiting at the door when he returns, but rather getting on with the job entrusted to him… . [We are] not to be in passive waiting but in getting on with the job and making the most of the opportunities entrusted to us.1
Did you hear in the parable that the master gave talents according to each one’s abilities? Whew. God gives us talents, but we are all given different amounts according to God’s knowledge of our potential. I am not called to multiply your talents in my life. And bless God, you are not called to multiply my talents in yours. We are responsible only for the talents God has given to us.
Tell me, how many times unfair comparison has kept us from living worthy of God’s calling? You can look across the room and see a woman with an entirely different set of talents, and yet unfairly compare yourself to her. It’s a lose-lose every time. The comparison can leave you doubting yourself. Maybe God didn’t really call you to dream anything remotely big. And the lies from the comparison win, and we head to the backyard to dig a hole big enough to hide what God has given to us.
Did you also see how sneaky the enemy is in this story? As my kids would say, fear is a “creeper.” Lurking. Whispering. Ever-present until we choose to reject its presence and believe God instead. Fear kept the third servant from multiplying his talent for the master. I kind of get it, don’t you? The servant said, “I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I went out and hid the talent in the ground.”
Fear tells us to settle for nothing even when God’s glory is on the line.
The pain of remembering what it feels like to disappoint someone we care about can keep us from trying again. I have been paralyzed with the fear of failure and have let opportunities to bless God pass me by. Haven’t you suffered an anxiety that kept you from persevering? Caused you to give up? Or made you think that you couldn’t? That’s what fear does; it tells us to settle for nothing even when God’s glory is on the line. The servant reported that instead of multiplying his possession, he had just kept the talent safe, but that was not the master’s intent. God wants the glory from your talents and mine.
The Faithful One Is Worthy
The man was a corporate big shot.
Actually, he was bigger than a big shot. He was president and CEO of a worldwide conglomerate, and all the big shots worked for him. Year after year he led his business with a focused determination to succeed at every level and expected that same focus from his employees. And they did succeed. High expectations coupled with a driving spirit produced big results. Financial gain, expansion, innovation. He spent a lifetime striving for the victory he enjoyed. Some would have called him a genius.
This very successful man spent the last two weeks of his life in a hospital outside of New York City. And for those two weeks, the only person who came to see him was his wife, who kept a loving vigil day and night beside his bed. No cards or flowers came. No one else called. No priest or pastor. Nothing.
In his final days, he said to a nurse, “I spent my life building one of the largest businesses in the world with over twenty-five thousand employees. But at the end, the only one who is faithful is the woman I have ignored for fifty years.”
Oh, the ache of such a misspent life.
I believe that at the end we will stand before the One who is faithful. The one true God. The Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace. We will stand before the One who entrusted us with talents and every day of our lives graciously and mercifully called us to live for His glory.
The question, for each one of us, begs to be asked: “Will I live a life worthy of my calling, or will I ignore the One who is faithful?”
Paul wrote these words to the church of Corinth, and he also wrote them for you and me: “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Our Lord is faithful. Faithfully calling us to rearrange our lives around Him. Faithfully entrusting each one of us with different talents. Faithfully letting us begin over and over again.
A Woman Like Me, a Woman Like You
Somewhere along the way, we got it into our heads that God calls only the perfect or the educated or the successful. Or maybe He gives talents to the young, the healthy, and the happily married.
Somehow we have believed that only the worthy can bring glory to a God who is worthy. Turns out that God uses the broken and the lost and the wounded.
This past weekend I met a man in Los Angeles who had lived for years as a homeless alcoholic. He would beg for food or money on the streets around the church that I was attending. Some people from the church began to pay attention to this man. They told him about the unchanging love of God. They introduced him to the Savior he had needed all of his life. They drove him to a recovery program and encouraged him toward commitment. Now, twelve years later, the man came walking along the sidewalk, an integral part of this church body. Sober for more than ten years, working at a good job in the community, and engaged to be married! Wow, what a beautiful sight he was. And what a wonderful God we have. Faithful to keep calling the ones He loves toward His will for their lives.
I meet women all the time who can’t believe God is calling them to something bigger. So hear me, for goodness’ sakes, yes, God is calling even you to dream big! You may know my story: seminary graduate, divorced, remarried mom with four kids. No one anywhere would have ever chosen me to teach the Bible to anyone; well, maybe they would have let me speak at the prison ministry. Some ministries do amazing work all around the world, but because of my divorce, I would not even be allowed to be a discussion leader at their meetings. So go figure, me, a Bible teacher. Unbelievable to some, but God had a beautiful plan for me. I love saying, “But God.”
So maybe you are a woman who has suffered many failures. Maybe the scars you bear have made you feel like an outcast. Or maybe you are the church lady who can’t believe God would call a woman like you to more than the casserole ministry. I am here to personally testify. God loves to show off His glory wrapped around broken women like you and like me.
So perk up your ears and listen. The deep, abiding love of God is calling you to Himself. He wants you to bring every gift you have to the altar where He is worthy.
God loves to show off His glory wrapped around broken women like you and like me.
Here we are with only one lifetime to serve a loving and faithful God. My prayer is that you will not ignore His call. I pray that your response to His goodness will be an extravagant offering of your gratefulness. That your dreams will be big and that you will push fear aside so that you can put all your weight into the strong arms of faith. I pray that you will understand what has been given to you in Christ Jesus so that living a “life worthy of the calling” will become your greatest passion.
Tonight, from the comfort of my home, I am remembering our night at the Eiffel Tower. The winds were howling and the rain was a bitter, piercing cold. We couldn’t get warm enough and the soaking wet coats and shoes made the day turn to miserable for all of us. No sane person had come to the tower that stormy afternoon, just our group with one opportunity in a lifetime to see its fogged-in majesty. Standing underneath the lattice of riveted iron, I remember how looking up into its eighty-one stories made me feel small and weak. And the winds made me feel hesitant and afraid. To this day, I am amazed that we got into the elevators and rode up anyway. Tonight, as I remember, it seems like we were brave.
In the chair across the room from me is the little Eiffel Tower pillow I bought in the gift shop. It’s a peaceful souvenir that completely misrepresents the swaying monstrosity where I bought it. But it makes me remember what doing something big feels like. And truly, for my God who is worthy, that’s how I want to live. I want to spend this lifetime learning how to be courageous. Living a bigger story than the one I can write. Dreaming bigger than my mind can imagine. And in the end bringing a greater glory for my God who is worthy.
Does your heart cry out,
“God, do You know I am afraid to dream big?”
Then listen as God replies to your hesitant heart:
DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? …
I AM your God who is worthy.
The heavens declare My glory. The skies show My handiwork. I AM the Lord of lords, your great God who is mighty and awesome. I AM the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Mine.
Give your heart to My Son, Jesus, who is the reflection of My glory and the exact imprint of My very being, who is now sitting at the right hand of My Majesty on High.
You are My beloved, and I AM your God who is worthy.
Forever and ever, amen.2
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her:
“You are the God who sees me,” for she said,
“I have now seen the One who sees me.”
© 2010 Angela Thomas Pharr
And Other Brave Questions Women Ask
Do You Know Who I Am?
And Other Brave Questions Women Ask
In her book Do You Know Who I Am? Angela Thomas asks God if He knows her—and ultimately does He love her—as she is, right now, today. In each chapter, she names a different identity issue, such as: “I am invisible,” “I am worn out,” “I am undisciplined,” “I am ordinary,” and “I am afraid to dream.” With each honest admission, Angela teaches that God lovingly replies, “Yes, I know your heart. I see your struggle. Now…do you know who I AM?”
Ultimately Angela reveals that the secret to being known and loved lies in an intimate understanding of who God is. Each identity struggle is answered with a short biblical study on the character of God that assures readers that their personal, spiritual, and eternal fulfillment is not dependent on getting themselves together. Rather, God has a purpose for them just as they are—broken, afraid, disappointed, disillusioned.
Through vivid storytelling, biblical teaching, and practical application, readers will find the heartfelt answers they seek.
- Howard Books |
- 240 pages |
- ISBN 9781439177594 |
- October 2010
Read an Excerpt
Reading Group Guide
In her book Do You Know Who I Am? Angela Thomas asks God if He knows her—and ultimately does He love her—as she is, right now, today. In each chapter, she names a different identity issue, such as: “I am invisible,” “I am worn out,” “I am undisciplined,” “I am ordinary,” and “I am afraid to dream.” With each honest admission, Angela teaches that God lovingly replies, “Yes, I know your heart. I see your struggle. Now . . . do you know who I AM?”
Ultimately Angela reveals that the answer to being known and loved lies in an intimate understanding of who God is. Each identity struggle is answered with a short biblical study on the character of God that assures readers that their personal, spiritual, and eternal fulfillment is not dependent on getting themselves together. Rather, God has a purpose for them just as they are broken, afraid, disappointed, disillusioned.
Through vivid storytelling, biblical teaching, and practi see more