The American Dream was constructed on the principle that future generations would continue to live in a free society with prosperity and opportunity.
We grew up in a period of unprecedented wealth and possibility. The millennial generation was the first generation to grow up with the Internet, reality TV, wireless technology, smartphones and unlimited access to the known world.
Many of us followed our dreams, went to college and worked hard, sincerely believing we were working toward a bright future. As one of the earliest members of the millennial generation, I graduated with substantial student loan debt in order to obtain my legal education. I was blessed to obtain a decent paying job; however, many of my peers still struggle, despite their educational achievement.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and subsequent war on terror followed by the economic collapse of 2008 has impacted many of our family, friends and loved ones.
This moment provides us an opportunity to reflect on our definition of the American Dream in light of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
As a generation, we have replaced purpose with insatiable empty ambition. But Jesus did not die on the cross for us to simply vote our political persuasion or secure notoriety and fortune. Instead of building our lives around the idea of finding a “good” career or doing the next big thing, we can choose to build our lives centered on eternity.
I am reminded of the life of John the Baptist. He dedicated himself to preparing the way for the coming savior. In the prime of his life, he was a charismatic orator with a powerful ministry. I would imagine if he were alive today he would have quite a following on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.
Then one day Jesus showed up and the crowds began to follow Him.
If we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us would be hurt if we lost our sphere of influence like that.
Those who remained with John pointed out that Jesus was gathering a large following. John gave a humbling responses: “A man can receive only what God gives him.”
This response speaks volumes to our generation.
John made it big in life. He was well known, crowds were coming to hear his messages and his ministry was growing. Then suddenly the crowds were gone, the ministry was gone and he ended up in prison.
It makes you wonder how many people in our day and age would consider him a has-been or failure.
As he sat in a dark prison cell, John must have wondered why this was happening to him. Scripture humanizes John when he asks his disciples if Jesus is the one. Jesus reassures him that the blind see, the lepers walk and the dead are raised. Barely in his mid-thirties, John’s mission was fulfilled.
God does give us big dreams, careers, hopes and ambition for the future. However, we should remember that the culmination of our life story points to the bigger story of God’s eternal purpose.
John was able to relinquish control because he understood that his purpose and everything that was given to him was from God. Only God can bring fulfillment, and only God can give us contentment no matter how obscure or well known in our preferred profession or field we become.
When we get the inkling that perhaps our life has not turned out the way we wanted; or maybe that we failed to make it, we can remain content knowing Christ has an eternal purpose for our life.
Perhaps God is stirring the ground for a new spiritual awakening among this generation.
The first great awakening that began in middle of the 18th century was fertilized by instability in the social and economic order of early America.
We may be at a similar point in history. This is an opportunity for us to reevaluate our priorities corporately and individually. Perhaps God is shaking us from our sleep and confidence in external attributes to a realization that He has a timeless kingdom that surpasses all generations and nations.
The American Dream is good, but God’s dream is better. An identity rooted in Him will give us the confidence to move forward knowing that we don’t have to live for an external expectation that may or may not pan out the way we like. At some point others will fail us, or we may fail them, but God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
A Christ-centered identity rooted in humility will change our generation and our nation because we will no longer exclusively rely on our limited perspective.
A dream lived for our glory leads to empty hearts and, ultimately, discontentment. When we begin to see our life through the lens of eternity, we can learn to become content and passionately pursue our dreams knowing God is in full control of the outcome.
This moment is a call to our generation; At the door of each and every one of our hearts, Jesus is knocking.
He has a better dream. Will you answer?