There are a lot of authors in the Christian world, but not nearly as many writers. There are a lot of people who publish books, but few who have a level of mastery over the English language. There are a lot of people who can say what’s true, but not very many who say it beautifully.
Seth Lewis is one of those rare authors who can truly write. I have been reading his blog for a number of years and have admired his ability to write both poetry and prose that is interesting, compelling, and full of beauty. I was thrilled, then, to learn that he has now also written a book, Dream Small: The Secret Power of the Ordinary Christian Life.
Dream Small takes as its starting point the fact that most of us enlist our dreams and ambitions in the direction of self-aggrandizement. We dream big in the sense that we dream of changing the whole world. And if we fail to do so, if we fail to achieve fame, fortune, or power, we then tend to believe we have failed to live a life of significance.
“The world around you will constantly encourage you to follow your dreams,” says Lewis. “That’s not bad advice as far as it goes, but I’m asking you to pause first, and take the time to ask an important question that often gets overlooked: just where, exactly, are your dreams leading you? Before you follow your dreams, you need to aim them. And what will you aim them at? The default assumption which says that bigger dreams will always turn out better is simply not true. Where will you find better dreams?”
That’s exactly what his book is about. It’s about dreaming better dreams and then working to achieve them. This means he has to set humanity in its proper context as wonderfully significant to God, yet also infinitesimal by comparison to God. He has to explain how the gospel redeems us and directs us toward the good of others and the glory of God. He has to show that God’s values are very different from the world’s and, therefore, often very different from our own. He has to show that by dreaming small we can accumulate achievements that God deems great.
You are here for a purpose. You were carefully crafted with a perfect plan in mind. You are a character in the greatest story ever told, and your life, and your actions, and your decisions—even today—can send shockwaves into eternity. Maybe the role God has for you is big and public. Maybe it is quiet, behind the scenes, where hardly anyone will notice. Don’t worry about that. You can invest in loving God and loving the people he loves from wherever you are, and the best ways to do that have always been the closest, most ordinary, most overlooked and under-appreciated ways, like humble service to humble people and time spent with God and all the little ways we can remind each other of God’s truth and God’s love and the big story he made us to be part of.
To dream small, he explains, is not to miss out on God’s plan for our lives, but to find it, to take hold of it, and to live it out. It’s to live a life of the highest significance to the God whose ways are so very different from our own.
A few years ago the Christian world saw a whole crop of books that dealt with being ordinary—a natural reaction, I think, to books like Radical and Do Hard Things which meant to shake people out of their spiritual complacency. These books achieved their purpose, but may have also discouraged some who tried to be radical and some who tried to do hard things, but who in the end found themselves still living very ordinary lives. Dream Small offers an important correction. It shows beautifully that the most significant Christian life is also the most ordinary Christian life.