by Tony Stoltzfus
I’ve spent considerable time as a coaching trainer defining how a dream becomes a goal (answer: when you have a committed plan to reach it). I’ve spent less time on a similar but probably more important question: when does a dream become an idol?
In biblical times, idols were physical objects of worship—standing stones or statues that were prayed to as God before the idea of God as invisible and omnipresent took hold. Teraphim were household gods, like the ones Rachel stole from her brother Laban: minor demi-gods believed to protect the home and those in it. Ancient houses often had a shrine where the family prayed to these ‘gods’, which also included other deities that insured fertility, a good harvest, success, protection, etc. Back when most people were farmers who depended on unpredictable seasonal rains for their livelihood, praying to their teraphim gave them a sense of security that everything would be alright.
We don’t worship stone household gods in niches in our walls today—unless it is our TVs! But human nature hasn’t really changed. Our hearts long for security, stability, to know the future so we can protect ourselves. We still attach our hearts to things we believe will give us security or success or protection. Maybe our healthy eating is what makes us feel protected physically, or our multiple sources of income are what we lean on for financial security. Or maybe finding work that makes a difference in the world is what we believe will provide a sense of significance and value. When we fix our heart on a thing or outcome in this world in the belief that it will fill the hole in our heart, it can be just as much an idol as the stone bulls or asherah fertility gods found in Israeli archaeological digs.
So a line of questioning that is vital for coaching dreams is, “What do you believe this dream will give your heart?” The idea is, if the coachee knows the desire under the dream, he or she can directly ask God for the desire (what they really want) instead of the idol (the thing or outcome in this world) their heart thinks believes will provide it.
For instance, if my coachee longs to find their soulmate, what do they believe finding that person will give their heart? Probably love, belonging, value, or maybe approval. So when your client identifies that, you can have a simple conversation with Jesus that starts to fill the hole, by having them just ask: “Jesus, what do you love about me as a person?” or “Jesus, why do you want to adopt me into your family?” When Jesus fills the hole, then I can go into a relationship able to give love, instead of being a life-sucking vampire.
But if they can’t get that from Jesus, they’ll be powerfully tugged to attach that desire to the first guy who comes along—and they’ll either scare him away or end up with a co-dependent relationship.
Or if a man longs for the approval his father never gave him, and throws himself 110% into his business to prove by his success that he is worthy—you can have him ask Jesus, “If I never accomplish another thing with my life, how am I success to you?” or “Jesus, what do you already approve about me?” If he can’t find approval in Jesus, he’ll probably end up either blowing up his own family or losing it all by taking unwise risks. It’s a law of human nature: if your heart believes a thing or outcome in this world will fill your deep desire, it will actually work against you, to keep you from getting what you really want.
As a coach, I don’t want to help my clients pursue things that will destroy their lives! Every dream has a desire or two under it, and every desire can be filled right in your coaching appointments, in only a few minutes, by letting Jesus speak to it. When Jesus does the coaching, he gets great results! Next month I’ll tell you more about how practically to implement this method.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tony Stoltzfus has been a coach and coach trainer for over 20 years. He’s founded or co-founded three major coach training organizations, trained over 1000 coaches in multiple countries and developed dozens of training courses. A prolific author, he’s published a dozen books on coaching and leadership that have sold over 250,000 copies, including the best-selling Coaching Questions. His books and training materials have been translated into multiple languages. Tony specializes in coaching hundreds of ‘senior leadership in painful transitions’, developing biblically-based coaching methods and integrating conversations with Jesus into the coaching dialog with his innovative Questions for Jesus approach. In 2021 Tony passed on his training business (Leadership MetaFormation, www.meta-formation.com) as well as his coaching bookstore at www.Coach22.com to two of his trainers. He is currently working on a coaching-based Bible study curriculum called How to Read the Bible Like a Human Being that teaches how to study scripture to engage the emotional brain. Tony enjoys reading, photography, watching silly Youtube videos, and woodworking as hobbies, and lives with his wife Kathy in Redding, CA.