I was at work the other day when a colleague asked me about my five year old son. “How is Kameron doing?”
“He’s doing great. Thanks for asking” I replied.
“So he is a Veggie Tale fan?” she asked.
“Yes, he is. How did you know?” I was surprised.
“You’ve been humming Veggie Tale tunes all morning.”
I’ve heard every Veggie Tale tune that has ever been composed. Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of talking to tomatoes and waltzing with potatoes. In the early 2000’s Veggie Tales sold over 50 million videos. They were especially popular among college students as Veggie Tales climbed into the top ten videos watched on college campuses.
Our short conversation spurred me to investigate the success of Veggie Tales. I was astonished by what I learned. The founder of Veggie Tales is a man named Phil Vischer. He made his first animated video when he was only nine years old. He honed in on his natural ability to tell stories through film and he committed his life to children’s ministry through multimedia. He made his first children’s video in 1993 and it went viral. By 2000 Vischer was CEO of one of the largest video production companies in the United States. Big Idea employed over 300 people.
Phil Vischer was living out his dream. Life couldn’t be better. Success had come so easy and it tasted so sweet. Strangely, he began to get occasional emails from an unknown woman saying, “Congratulations on your success but be careful of your pride.” He paid little notice and soon it became evident that there was a Grinch in the works and all was not well in Whoville. The company began to teeter and holding it together was like trying to carry a pound of jell-o with no container. The cracks began to widen and the company was finally thrust into bankruptcy after losing a lawsuit filed by Lyrick Studios. A jury in Texas decided Lyrick deserved $11 million in damages because Big Idea violated a verbal contract.
So, what do you do when your dream dies? What do you do next after your dream vaporizes right before your eyes? What does it mean when God seems to bless your efforts and breathe life into your dream only to let it crumble to dust?
In 2009, at an Echo Conference in Dallas, Phil Vischer told his story. Mustering all his story telling skills together, Phil shared the biblical account of the Shunemite Woman (2 Kings 4:8-37):
Elisha, the great prophet of old traveled from city to city preaching truth and revealing the nature of God to any who would listen. He often traveled through a town called Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there and provided him room and board when he came through. Elisha was very grateful and asked her one day what he might do to repay her for her hospitality. She said she was well cared for by her family and had need of nothing.
Later, Elisha asked his servant, Gehazi, “What might we do for this kind woman?” Gehazi said, “She has no children. Her husband is an old man.” So, Elisha called for the woman and said to her, “By this time next year you will have a son.” “Oh, man of God,” she responded, “Don’t play with my emotions like that. Don’t get my hopes up.” A year later she had a son, just as Elisha had said she would.
One day when her son was older and working in his father’s fields, he suddenly cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” His father instructed one of the servants to carry him to the house. The Shunemite woman sent a servant on a dash for Elisha and she followed as quickly as she could.
But her son died. He was everything to her. He was her miracle. He was the meaning in her life. He was her hope for the future. He was her dream. Why would God give her a dream and then take it away?
She finally caught up with Elisha and after hearing her distress Elisha sent Gehazi to minister to the child. But the Shunemite woman would not leave Elisha, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So she and Elisha returned together.
When Elisha arrived he went in to where the boy lay. What he did for the boy sounds a lot like the modern treatment of mouth to mouth resuscitation. The boy was revived and reunited with his mother.
When it seems God has taken a dream away from you, turn to him. Notice the Shunemite woman would not leave Elisha. In her time of sorrow, she wanted to be as close to God as possible. She didn’t call for her husband. She didn’t call for the town doctor. She called for the man of God.
We must be careful when claiming ownership of our dreams and our ministry. When the dream becomes too much ours and not enough God’s we have a serious problem. Our dream, our ministry, our occupation can become an idol. Sometimes God asks us to let go. If we cling to our dream instead of clinging to Him then he reveals to us our idol. We can worship our own efforts and our own works rather than truly worship the God we love.
Phil Vischer put is this way, “If God gives you dream and breathes life into it, and then it dies, it could be that God wants to show you what’s more important to you… Him or the dream.”
C.S. Lewis once said, “He who has God plus many things has no more than he who has God alone.”
The Shunemite Woman’s dream was resurrected. Phil Vischer’s dream was also resurrected. He now runs a company called Jelly Labs he founded in 2005. The loss of his dream changed Phil Visher’s perspective on life and ministry. “The most important thing in our lives … is not the work that we can do for God, the most important thing is to make God the most important thing.”
When God takes something from us he always wants to replace it with something better. Sometimes he wants to do a work within us. He wants to replace pride with humility, self-sufficiency with faith in Him. Vischer said, “I realized at Big Ideas I was a big studdly barracuda,” but now he humbly admits that at Jellyfish Labs he is a “spineless, brainless, bag of goo. I get my form, my purpose only when I am suspended in the current of God’s will. So, let go of ego. Let go of outcomes and put your plans in God’s hands and let Him direct your steps.”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”