I heard the billionaire, Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, say something on the television program, “Shark Tank,” that has stuck with me. Paraphrasing him, “it is easy come up with a good idea, but it is extremely difficult to make that idea a reality. Very few people will do the work to make the idea successful.” As a person who started out giving private dance lessons to put himself through college, he knows how to go the distance. I’d consider Cuban a faith exemplar because he thinks big, believes in himself, and gets it done.
Having big ideas and seeing them through to fruition is about faith on many levels. One, you need to trust yourself and believe that your idea can become a reality. Two, you need confidence that if you put in the work, you’ll generate something that can bring about transformation. Third, our ability to pursue our deepest and biggest aspirations is about answering our call, our vocation, while living authentically and courageously as human beings. Each of these lies within us. The legendary attorney, Gerry Spence, argues "You have a power of your own that no one else can ever match." Unleash your power.
Examples abound of people living out their faith in big ways. A recent New York Times article reported how The Black Lives Matter movement has given birth to a new crop of elected leaders. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, 41, (below, center) who rallied her community following the protests in Ferguson, is now a Missouri state senator. Movita Johnson-Harrell, who lost her son to gun violence, is now a Pennsylvania state congresswoman. Both women were called into action by the events of their lives and responded with big faith and action, transforming anger into ballots.
Closer to home, I listened in church today as two of my parishioners, Pat Pukkila (flute) and Mateo Arnold (bassoon), delivered a magnificent performance of works by the Brazilian classical composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos. I lift them up because they play world-class music although being musicians is not their primary vocation. They are educators who obviously take seriously their dreams of creating soul-stirring music to the highest heights and making it a faith-filled experience. Imagine the level of commitment required to play complex classical charts in your spare time! Are you thinking this big?
Cuban is right. It’s extremely difficult turning a dream into a reality. But, guess what? Dreaming too small is equally problematic. It’s like fishing with a small hook and expecting to catch a big fish! Dreaming small limits us to small outcomes, small jobs, small plans, small possibilities, small lives, and small faith. Think big and grow your faith.
There are real hurdles to people’s ability to dream big that we ought not overlook. Among the big ones are systemic structures such as racism, prejudice, and apathy. These have by-products--unjust legislation, unequal access and distribution to resources, under-funded schools in communities of color, and lackadaisical governance (think Flint, MI) just to name a few. And sadly to say, the over-reliance in belief systems when facing down realities that demand reflection, accountability, and action immobilizes many. All of these forces are life-sapping and can trick the faithified into doubt and despair. That is why big thinkers need to give back and help others up with them.
How do you translate big ideas into big faith? Begin by thinking big and being willing to do what your big idea demands to make it real. You know that you’re working with a big idea if your mission transcends yourself and serves the greater good. With that mission firmly worked out, then develop the action steps that get you there.
I admit that I sometimes feel that I’m not living out my full potential. I’ve accomplished much in my years, but can I do better? Can I think bigger! Surely, I can publish more, speak better Spanish, be a better spouse, preach better, and the list goes on and on. Occasionally, I feel as though I have too many interests. I may benefit from narrower focus and fewer ideas.
Still, I encourage you to challenge yourself to think big and grow your own faith. The world needs you to go large, my friend. Whether you’re reading this as a high school student, a stay-at-home parent, a plumber, an ex-offender, someone unemployed, or a CEO. You can still grow your faith.
I close with a tribute to one of my all-time favorite big dreamers and faith exemplars, Maurice White of the musical group, Earth, Wind & Fire. EWF’s music has inspired me to higher heights for most of my life. I always considered Maurice White ahead of his time. One of my close friends said it right, “White led a movement.” His music, filled with love, fused African and American forms in a spirit-filled funk and dance style that transformed the world. EWF the group that my mother and I enjoyed together—even to this day. Maurice White died on Feb. 4 at age 74. Rest in peace, my brother.
May the rest of us keep the faith,