Man up and dream big…

My five-year-old daughter, Noelle, wants to be a scientist when she grows up. That has been her dream for the past year after she saw a guy in a lab-coat create a small explosion on television. Before that, she wanted to be a doctor. And before that, a ballerina. I envy her. She believes she can be anything she wants to be. She has not been told how hard it is to score straight A’s for her exams or the costs of a university education. In other words, no one has told her to dream a little smaller. Yet.

Many of us were once like Noelle.  In our naiveté, we believe that we can be anything we want to be. But is that really being naïve? Aren’t we born for a purpose and reason? If so, then why can’t we be that person we are supposed to be?

I believe there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, we have stopped dreaming altogether.  I’ve met many people who are unhappy with where they are. They hate their jobs and dread going into the office every day. I was one of them. I had worked for a renowned company and was doing projects that were seen in many countries. Even though the work was interesting, I wondered if that was what the rest of my life was going to be like.  Even before I stepped into the office, I was looking forward to going home. I, and many like me, have become weekend warriors – people who only come alive when work ends. While I had lost interest in what I was doing, I didn’t know what else I could do. It took me a while to realize God was trying to get my attention. I had become so concerned with getting a monthly paycheck that I had totally forgotten what God had in mind for my life.  What would I be doing if money were not an issue?

This question brought me back to one of my earliest memories.  When I was five years old, I excitedly rounded up the neighbourhood kids to show them my latest invention. I had made my own movie projector with a shoebox and a torchlight. On a strip of transparent plastic book wrapper, I drew five frames which showed Superman rescuing a little boy in distress. As I pulled my little film reel in front of the torchlight, I felt like I had made the world’s first movie. It was fantastic! But my audience could not appreciate my brilliant contraption. They took the sweets I had promised them and left.

All of us have done something like this when we were young. Like dismantling your dad’s radio and not knowing how to put it back together again. Or trying to do a Banksy on the living room wall. A lot of these moments resulted in us learning the limits of our parents’ patience. But some of them may have pointed to where your interest and passion lie. Over time, these little signposts can get worn down by the daily grind until we don’t even remember them anymore. Don’t get me wrong. This is not an excuse to quit your job and just play video games because you loved it as a child. This is about discovering the little box of talents that came along with your heart.

Many of us dream from where we are as if we were looking at stars from the gutters. What if we dreamt from where the stars are? Growing up, our family of four lived in a 23m2 flat. I slept on a couch for more than 10 years while my parents had the bed until it was thrown away when they discovered bedbugs. Many nights, I’d worry if I would ever move off the couch and onto a proper bed. My dream then was to move into a bigger flat. I did the numbers and it was impossible. My parents were old and my elder brother had cerebral palsy. How am I going to take care of three people on one salary? I had a crush on a girl from school and imagined what life would be like with her. One day, I asked her if she would ever live in a government flat (she was pretty well off and lived in a house). She said no and another dream fell from the sky. I also wanted to be a photographer but didn’t pursue it because I wanted to make money to take care of the family. From where I was, all my dreams were impossible to attain. But God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. From that couch where I had spent many anxious nights thinking about my future, I have come a long way.  Today, I live in a big apartment with my wife and kids. None of this is due to my efforts. How could it be when I could not even dream it? If we only knew the One who has the power to give us more than what we could ever dream of, then we will not dream from where we are but from where He is.

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Psalms 139:16.

We are all born with the same potential. It is God who will perfect the days written for us. We need to have the courage to believe His plans for us and make them the substance of our dreams. Last year, after working for 12 years and finding it meaningless and unfulfilling, I quit and enrolled in bible school. In the months that followed, I surrendered my dreams to Him and in exchange, He gave me a calling. Today, I am living my dream of being a storyteller – I make films. From my first job as a production assistant at an international television channel, to right now starting my own company, God has given me my heart’s desires. But living out my dreams is not easy. I’m cut off from a steady income and have to rely solely on Him everyday. Yet, I’m learning to keep dreaming, to keep pressing on, and most importantly, to have faith in His ability to make more of my dreams come true. Ultimately, our dreams are not an end unto itself but the means through which we partake in His divine nature – His glory is revealed in us.


ivan-tanIvan Tan is living the dream running his own film-making business,
Burning Bush Films. Ivan loves telling people’s stories – particularly stories with God’s fingerprints all over them. With his slogan, ‘What’s in your hand?’ (the same question God asked Moses in Exodus 4), Ivan’s skill in story-telling inspires many to look again at the seemingly ordinary ‘things we have in our hand’ because of the miracles God can do with them.

Ivan is married with two adorable little girls and lives with his family in Singapore. You can see some of his Legacy handiwork here.

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