Sitting stiffly in the chair across from my professor’s desk, my hands twisted nervously in my lap as I awaited her pronouncement on my recent creative writing assignment. This particular professor was not known for flattery. She’s going to tear it apart, I thought, steeling myself for the barrage of criticism that would ensue.
Adjusting her brightly-colored glasses, the professor put down my paper and cleared her throat. “This is very good.” She gazed at me searchingly. “Why aren’t you pursuing a degree in creative writing instead of in education? You obviously have a gift for writing.”
To my great embarrassment, I immediately started crying. “But I want to be a teacher, I really do!” I burst out, wiping furiously at the tears. So why did it sound like I was trying to convince myself?
When I was eight, nine, and ten years old, I had grandiose dreams of being a world-famous author. Pages and pages in my spiral notebooks were filled with imaginative stories of princesses and detectives, or accounts of the everyday adventures of my family. My heroes were Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls, and my own Great-Aunt Louise, a well-published author of poetry and theology.
But sometime in middle school or high school those dreams started to get crowded out by the pressures of getting good grades and preparing for college and the future. In addition, a growing fear of rejection and of not being good enough for the world’s standards made me more hesitant to share my writing with others. Subconsciously I shelved my desire to write next to my other childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or a gymnast. Not practical, I decided. Teaching is a much safer career.
Now, years later, sitting in this college professor’s office, hearing her affirmation, those long-dormant desires came suddenly rushing to the surface. I DID want to write. I longed to write. Descriptions, narratives, dialogues, and story ideas were always tumbling around in my brain, begging to be put on paper. This professor was the first person in a long time who was giving me PERMISSION to write! She made me feel that it was actually a valid dream to be a writer. And she gave me the courage to do actually do something about it!
Do you have “permission-giving” people in your life? People who listen to your crazy dreams, encourage you to step out on a limb, gently draw out your gifts, and cheer you on when you feel alone and discouraged? Or are you letting fear of failure, rejection, or hurt keep you from being all God created you to be?
Seek out and surround yourself with permission-giving supporters. And if it seems that no one else is on your side, decide that YOU will be a permission-giving friend today to others in your life. Don’t be afraid to dream big dreams, because we have a big God who delights to see His children pursuing their gifts and passions!
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)