It's visiting the widow down the street
Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world
Of course, there's nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don't miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things, no
'Cause these simple moments change the world.
So dream small.
“Dream Small” by Josh Wilson
Dream Small. A profound challenge amidst a culture that screams at us to dream big, defining success and happiness by metrics of power and significance. When I heard these lyrics by my friend and neighbor Josh Wilson for the first time, I was struck by what a balm they were to my weary soul. I so often unconsciously buy into the lie that I should be discontented with the day in, day out, ordinary life I live. But Josh’s words are the essence of the gospel message. God doesn’t ask us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and achieve big dreams in order to be loved and saved. Quite the opposite. He asks us to admit our lowly position, our need for a savior, and watch as he brings significance from our insignificant lives.
What I love most about Josh’s lyrics is how well they describe the life that he and his wife, Becca, lead. They live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor in simple yet profound ways everyday. I asked my friends to share a little bit about what “dreaming small” looks like to them and how they do that in their day-to-day lives.
Palmer Williams: Josh, you sing about “Dreaming Small,” a powerful and countercultural sentiment today. What practical ways does this work itself out in your marriage and family?
Josh Wilson: When I sat down to write what became “Dream Small,” I intended to write about a big idea. The more I thought about my own life, though, the more I realized that there wasn’t anything particularly extraordinary about my life. I’m just a normal person, but I began to realize that normal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even our ordinary lives can be extraordinary if we love intentionally, even in the little moments.
With my wife, I try and delight her with small acts of love and kindness. Whether it’s an impromptu lunch date, an unexpected sticky note on the mirror, or simply cleaning the house so she doesn’t have to, I’ve found that those small things go a long way.
With our son, we do our best to remind him how much we love him and how proud he makes us, just by being himself. We love spending time together as a family, so we frequent the zoo, the Adventure Science Center, and of course the ice cream shop. We also try to be intentional about teaching our son that every person we meet has value and dignity. We spend a lot of time with our friends with special needs and learn so much from them. Our neighbor Jay is a wonderful friend of ours, who happens to have Asperger’s and Cerebral Palsy. He’s at our house so often that Asher calls him “Uncle Jay.”
PW: Josh, as a musician in an industry that is often about self-promotion and trying to become famous, how do you ground yourself in your faith? In what ways in your career, big or small, do you try to shine a light on human dignity?
JW: It is certainly tricky to balance faith and business, and I’m not convinced there’s a great way to do that. I try to spend the first moments of each day reading and praying, reminding myself of who I am in Christ. God loves me, not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because I’m his child. When I think about God’s love for me, and how little I’ve earned it, that certainly helps me stay grounded. Because we’re all created by God in his image, we all have value. And because I am loved by God, I am free to give that love away to all of his image-bearers, which just so happens to be all of humanity.
PW: Becca, you two are both leaders in a ministry here in Tennessee called The Ascent. Why have you decided to do that?
Becca Wilson: We were first introduced to the special needs community in Nashville in 2010 when we met our neighbor, Jay, who is more like family to us, as Josh mentioned. Through Jay, I learned about Young Life Capernaum, which is a branch of Young Life specifically for students with disabilities. I immediately fell in love with the ministry and the people of Capernaum. It is precious to look back on my life and see a thread where God was evidently and consistently turning my heart and sight to people with special needs—in every season of my life since I was in elementary school, I have had a dear friend with a disability. It has been since I became involved with Young Life Capernaum that I have realized that the special needs community is a group of people I forever want to be walking alongside.
The Ascent grew out of our local Young Life Capernaum club. We were outgrowing our space, and most of our attendees were well into adulthood. We had the desire to continue to be a community with this group of friends with special needs, and, with the wonderful leadership and support of Young Life Capernaum staff, a group of churches from Nashville, and a few other willing hearts, we are continuing to grow and thrive. It is the sweetest joy to have my friends from the Ascent be just that—my friends. We are all adults, equal but unique in our many abilities, bearing with one another in love, seeking Jesus and learning how to show his love to one another. I have been humbled by the way this community has loved me.
PW: Becca, as a mom to a little boy, what are some practical ways that you have found to begin to teach him about human dignity?
BW: Mr. Fred Rogers told children, “I like you just the way you are,” and said that we don’t tell people that enough. I have lovingly stolen that from Mr. Rogers and tell my son daily, “I love you just the way you are.” I do my best to help Asher see people—to look up, look out, and appreciate every person we come in contact with, although there are many times where he does a much better job of teaching me this than vice versa. When our pastor at church dedicates babies, he prays for courage and compassion for them. I have also adopted this, and I pray over Asher daily that he will have courage to do what is right and what honors the Lord, and compassion for everyone around him. It is the best reward when I not only hear Asher repeat those words back to me, but when I see him truly have compassion for every person. Asher is with us at every gathering for The Ascent, when we get to be a part of Capernaum camp, and he hangs out with “Uncle Jay” regularly. I know without a doubt that living daily life with our friends with special needs is teaching him that every person matters, every person has a beautiful role to play in this world, and everyone is deserving to be loved just the way they are—as image bearers of our Creator.
God has always used ordinary men and women in the midst of their mundane lives to bring about his work of salvation; to represent him to others, and to honor the dignity of those who have been overlooked and pushed aside.
It is a privilege to walk alongside friends like Becca and Josh as they “dream small.” It is through these faithful small dreams that God shows his glory and begins to push the darkness back with his light.