Dream Small by Seth Lewis – A Review
Written by who!?
In the Christian publishing scene it’s fairly unusual to come across a book where you’ve not come across the author before. By and large, a lot of the books that tend to get published have been written by conference speakers and large-church pastors. But Dream Small breaks with that trend. Seth Lewis? Who is he? Hang about, I don’t recognise the name as being anyone particularly extraordinary…
Exactly. And so welcome to Dream Small, a wonderful call to reconsider how we measure our lives, embodied by the fact it’s written by someone you’ve probably never heard of who is trying to live their life ‘dreaming small’. In fact, there’s a delightful line in the book where the author acknowledges, “I’ve got so much ordinary you could still call me extra-ordinary, not because I have something extra beyond ordinary, just because I’ve got so much ordinary!”
How do you measure your life?
In a sense, this is a book about what we count as significant. Lewis is a wonderful writer but applies his gift to share a powerful burden: to invite us to consider whether in our lives we’re longing for the things that God has actually created us to long for. As the subtitle puts it, this is a book about ‘The secret power of the ordinary Christian life.’
To give you a sense of how the book feels, in her commendation, author Jen Othman, describes Dream Small as like “spending an afternoon with a kind friend who brings you back to what’s beautiful and true.” I think that’s absolutely on the money. Early on in the book Lewis reflects on the seeming contradiction in the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” (1 Thess 4:11) Applying this, Lewis compellingly persuades us to reconsider the priorities that our world encourages us to adopt – to see whether actually we have bought into a norm where effectively we are chasing after our own significance. Instead he longs for us to be captivated by something not necessary ‘bigger’ but most certainly ‘better’.
Writing beautifully about a beautiful life
Writing his name throughout this review makes me realise how the author shares his surname with one of the most well-known Christian writers from the twentieth-century. It’s a big comparison, but this Lewis’ writing does evoke similarities with his famous namesake. It’s a book that is a joy to read from a delightfully-put words-on-the-page point of view, which of course befits the beauty of the message. Lewis uses wonderful turns of phrase and imagery to help you fall in love afresh with Jesus and his ways.
Dream Small isn’t a long read, but its impact could well be life-long. At the very least, you’ll feel refreshed, recalibrated and renewed in your desire to live the life God has given you, but using God’s ‘measuring-tape’, not your own. And yet be warned: this could mean a ‘radical’ ordinariness to the things you choose to value, love, and long for. Dream small.
You can pick up a copy from the publisher here.
I wanted to share eight particular quotations that beautifully or powerfully resonated for me:
1) “Having a Creator who cares about us explains a lot. It explains why we can’t seem to cure ourselves of the habit of caring about ourselves and the people around us – and explains why we feel that the things we do matter and have a significance beyond themselves.”
2) “When God measures our value, he doesn’t borrow our measuring tape.”
3) “As we move ourselves and our world away from God, we are like the embers flying up from a campfire – still flickering with the glory we were given, even as we slowly fade away into ashes and dust.”
4) “In our sin we tried to make ourselves as big as God, and all we won for ourselves was death. In his love, God made himself as small as we are, and he won his children life.”
5) “Our value is not derived from our actions, dreams or achievements, or buy how we collectively measure each other on these things; and yet it is secure – it is built-in, breathed in, by our Creator. In this light, the world looks completely different. Suddenly, you are free from the impossible task of dreaming up your own value and meaning. You don’t have to prove your worth with your performance in the classroom, or on the job, or in some area of talent. You don’t have to create your own significance with dreams that go further and reach higher than the dreams of others.”
6) “I can see myself as the author of my own story and dream the best part, action and ending that I can for myself, or I can see myself as a character in a story that is bigger than I am and align my dreams with a plot that is bigger than my life.”
7) “God came to save small people, because that’s the only size people come in.”
8) “Contentment. Satisfaction. Joy. Peace. Purpose. Meaning. Love. Aren’t these the things that big dreams were supposed to give us? They are, but the big dreams were never big enough to keep their promises. When Jesus turned the ladder of success upside down, he showed us that the treasures we’ve been seeking, and so much more beyond them are hidden in a field – hidden in his Mustard-seed kingdom that grows in the ordinary daily things of ordinary life, the things the world keeps overlooking as insignificant. We thought the answers were above us, but somehow if we made ourselves big enough then we could mean something, and be recognised, and finally be satisfied. But looking up and climbing over each other to make ourselves as big as possible has only let us away from the very things we were seeking.”
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review.