One of my classmates at Duke, Mark Won, serves as a United States Navy Chaplain. He suggested that I read a book called, “From the Hood to the Hill.” The book chronicles the rise of Barry C. Black, from the projects of Baltimore to one of America’s top spiritual leaders. Barry Black served in the Navy for over 27 years and became a Rear Admiral and the first African-American to serve as Chief of Chaplains. In June 2003, he was elected as 62nd chaplain of the United State Senate, a position he currently holds today.
I was struck by this particular passage on mentorship in the book:
Life without mentors would’ve been exasperating. I was blessed to have people who believed in me, who had an encouraging word that enabled me to believe that tomorrow would be brighter than today. “Boy,” many would say, “God has given you something special.” “You really think so?” I would question, feeling inward glee. “Why, of course he has,” would usually be the enthusiastic response. I heard it so many times that it seemed a verifiable fact. I began to dream, because others first dreamed for me. They saw me as an evangelist, or teacher, or lawyer, or philosopher, or missionary, and I began to believe also. These mentors backed their rhetoric with action. They lifted my future on the wings of prayer and invited God to surround my life with favor. My emotional health became robust under their loving nurture.
-Barry C. Black
How incredible is that? When I read that quote I started to think of the different people in my life that have dreamed for me. I think a distinction between encouragement and dreaming should be made when it comes to mentorship, discipleship, and leadership. Encouragement is important. Celebrating other’s accomplishments is vital to the health of any family. However, dreaming for other people requires serious investment, sincerity, and compassion.
Dreaming for others is vital for our schools, churches, and workplaces. There are people within your sphere of influence that have lost the ability to dream. They have been beat down by the world, have experienced so much dysfunction in relationships, and have failures that continue to haunt them in their life – because of these things, they have forgotten how to dream. They don’t believe God is good and that He has wonderful things in store for them. They live in a diminished state, limited by a poverty-stricken mentality. They lack vision and need someone to climb the watchtower of life and speak of the precious promises of God that are on the horizon.
I’m not saying that we try to pigeonhole them into a certain career path, but believe that God wants to move mightily in their lives and incessantly communicate that belief to them. What if we spent our time subsidizing other’s emotional and spiritual poverty by communicating the otherworldly love that God has for them? What if we challenged others to expect God to move in seismic ways in their lives?
I can remember how important this was for me during my freshman year in college. When I first started my studies at UNF, the university gave me the option (because I was an athlete) to meet with an academic mentor for a semester. I didn’t think it would hurt, so I opted into the program. I eventually met a 28-year-old graduate student by the name of Allison Chandler. She was brilliant, energetic, and incredibly compassionate.
We met nearly every week for a year. I will never forget how much she believed in me. I can remember her coaching me through papers that I was writing and some of the material I was reading for classes. She dreamed that I would get into an amazing graduate school and go on to accomplish great feats in life. The belief that she showed me was one of the major reasons for my academic success during my undergraduate studies. She would always say that I was ahead of my time and I was destined for prodigious exploits. I was 18-years-old and trying to figure out how NOT to fall asleep in class, but she refused mediocrity for my life. Allison Chandler literally dreamed for me and my life has never been the same.
I think we can spend too much time dreaming for ourselves. What if we decided to have coffee with someone and talked about their future and what God was calling them to do? I can remember being so focused on my theological studies when I went back to school at Liberty University. I wanted to showcase the vast amount of knowledge that I had accumulated through hours of diligent study. However, I realized very quickly that while some people respect intellectualism, most people don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care.
I don’t want to just enlighten people through my study and knowledge, I want lives to be changed. I desire that heads would be lifted, backs would be straightened, broken emotional bones set, and that people would begin to dream again because I dreamed for them. Let’s become dream givers.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.