When Your Dream is Everyone Else’s Nightmare

Caleb is one of the more talented bloggers out there. He’s also one of my favorite writers that live right here in Central PA. Check out his take on how our own personal dreams can sometimes cause chaos in the lives of those we love:

My dad’s a funeral director.  In fact, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-grandfather on both my paternal and maternal sides have been funeral directors.  All that makes me a thoroughbred, I guess.

But for two weeks in my childhood, my dad was something other than an undertaker.

When I was in 2nd grade, my father went on a short-term missions trip with YWAM, where he helped build a small air strip in the middle of the Amazon jungle.  It was dangerous.  I was scared I’d never see him again.  But when Dad came back from that two week trip, and shared his stories, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps … not as a funeral director, but as a missionary.  I wanted to be like the man I saw come back from the jungles.

I remember later that year in school – when the teacher asked to draw a picture of what we want to be when we grew up – while all the other kids where drawing astronauts, basketball players, princesses and doctors, I drew a missionary.

How I drew a missionary?  I’m not sure, but I was probably dressed in a nice suit, handing a nice shiny “Holy Bible” to a naked brown skinned tribesman.  And I probably blurred his dolphin out with some dark crayon … or something.


God became real for me at the age of 15 and my dream was revived.  I lived like God’s missionary in high school, leading daily prayer meetings, co-leading a Friday Morning Bible Study, chairing the Student Council Chapel Committee … and all this not in a public school, but in a good ol’ Mennonite High School, where to this day most of my classmates probably place me in the stereotypical religious nut job category.

After high school, I pursued my dream, joined YWAM for two years and then I quit.

I was living my dream and I quit.

The reasoning behind my leaving was multi-fold: I was getting married, I was running out of support money, I felt like YWAM was too sheltered and – the biggest reason of all – I thought God was calling me to serve him as a funeral director.  What. The. Hell.?

When I look back on that decision, maybe I was just using the old “God of the gaps” crutch, where I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do, so I just put God into the mysterious decision gap and excuse my lack of decision making skills on “the voice of God.”

My friends didn’t fully understand.  Those who were spiritual authorities in my life used the “let the dead bury their own dead” mantra; and even I was slightly confused, as I knew there’s a vast difference between ministering to the dead and ministering to the living.


It’s been ten years since I’ve left my dream, but my dream hasn’t left me.  During the past ten years, I haven’t been able to shake the thought that maybe … just maybe … God will, or I will, become what I’ve always wanted.

So, I’ve kept the embers alive.  While obtaining my funeral directors license and working at the funeral home full-time, I’ve also received my undergrad in Bible, my masters in theology, and I’ve been serving in various churches and ministries, written two books (one of which will never be published; the other of which will be within a year) and damaged numerous people along the way, including my wife, as I’ve been so busy trying to be somebody that I’m not.

Damn dream.  Why can’t I just accept that I’m never going to be what I’ve always wanted to be?  Certainly, if I’d just let go of the dream, I’d be a better husband, a better friend, a better son, brother and undertaker.  When will I just realize that my dream, in one way or another, is everyone else’s nightmare?

Now head on over to Caleb’s blog: Confessions of a Funeral Director, and have a look around. I’d recommend his posts on Jack Kevorkian or Rob Bell. Some of you are loving the fact that those two names are in the same sentence.

10 Replies to “When Your Dream is Everyone Else’s Nightmare”

  1. Always enjoy reading your thoughts, Caleb. Our dreams don’t always turn out the way we thought they would. Maybe your role is to continue as an undertaker who happens to be really involved in church but maybe some day down the line you’ll see how all the threads connected together and your dream will be recognized, or perhaps some version of the dream you haven’t even considered at this point. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cluing into our passions and trying to live them out in some way. We just have to be open to the fact that we’re not in control and pay attention to how our pursuit impacts our loved ones. Interesting things lie ahead for you, Caleb. One way or another.

  2. Thanks, Leigh, for your encouragement!

    I don’t really believe everything I wrote … I wanted to offer a perspective on dreaming that shows maybe the darker side to it (since I’m great at looking at the dark side of things :) ).

    I’d be lying though if I said my life journey has been clear and content. I hope too — as you said — that that some of the threads come together … I think we all do :)

    1. My own Father’s prayer cards is among the collection. In 2008, when our memorial house revealed us the choice of memorial invitations, my Mom, sis and I, in all honesty weren’t excited at the choice, but what could we do? We had to have them, so we chosen a edition with seagulls on the top side with the terms, “Going Home…” It wasn’t because of my Father’s liking for parrots, the sea, or because he regarded passing away, “Going Home”. It was generally the best of the most severe, although we wouldn’t confess it at the time. Had our memorial house given us a bigger choice of styles, this one wouldn’t have been regarded twice.

  3. HMMMM. Not sure what to think to be honest. On one hand, I think we need to hold on to dreams with both hands and pursue them with our whole heart. On the other hand, I think we have to be flexible with our dreams. Thanks a lot. Now I am all confused. :)

  4. I am still surprised when you tell a story and just when I think you’re going to turn it around, get to the moral or the lived-happily-ever-after, you just end it. It forces me to decide what to take away from your posts. Good work.

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