Death to dreams
Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, walks through the dream that began as an 8-year-old of wating to impact the world for Christ through VeggieTales being crushed by the burden of bankruptcy of his company, Big Idea. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES
The last speaker I would expect at the esteemed Torrey Conference would be the creator of the Christian children’s hit series VeggieTales, but that’s exactly who spoke at the third session on Wednesday. Phil Vischer walked on stage with a huge smile on his face and a ton of his veggie impressions right off the bat. After the entire gym erupted with the chorus of “Where is My Hairbrush?” and the Cheeseburger Song, he said, “Alright, I’m supposed to be talking about God.”
And talk about God he did.
“I noticed at a relatively young age that God had given to me the ability to tell stories,” he said. At age nine, Vischer made his first animation film. His dreams consisted of going to Bible college, film school and then making Christian movies that would change media and ultimately the world.
He was kicked out of Bible college after only three semesters (after failing chapel), and never made it to film school. Even so, he was successful with his animation talents enough to found Big Idea Productions, the company he and his friend Mike Nawrocki had built from the ground up. The company expanded exponentially and they sold millions of DVDs of singing and gospel-preaching vegetables, movies I’m so familiar with even to this day. Sales were skyrocketing, and everything was a dream come true for Vischer.
“Beware your dreams, for dreams make dangerous friends,” he said.
Suddenly, things fell apart. He dissected how all of his dreams dissolved in 2003 with the bankruptcy of his beloved company.
“I didn’t understand how God could stand back from something that was doing so much good, and watch it fall apart,” he said.
I felt the weight of that statement, realizing how I completely relate with being blindsided by failure in the midst of trying to carry out what I believed to be God’s plan for my life. Vischer pressed on, detailing his life altering and dream-crushing ordeal that was the death of his career with Big Idea. Then, after much self-reflection, he realized that his dreams had become more about him than about God. He explained that “anything you’re not willing to let go of is an idol,” and how he had made his work for God more important than his relationship with God.
“Suddenly, I found myself facing a God that I had never heard about in Sunday school,” he said.
A God who would let Vischer’s dreams die because, in the end, God is enough.
“I was carrying an immense burden to save the world … Only one person has ever walked the face of the earth with the burden of saving it, and his name wasn’t Phil,” Vischer said.
In a world where each of us is faced with the weight of our goals, dreams and sheer ambition to impact the world for Christ, it’s important to realize that God loves us for exactly who we are, and not for our talents or accomplishments.
“God loves you not because of what you can do … he loves you because he made you,” he said.
Vischer’s message to lay down our dreams for the sake of Christ and take the life God has for us instead is one that resonates deeply within me. Feeling the pressure of success in my life and career is one that hinders my love for Jesus and deepening of relationship with him. But now, hearing a message of hope and security in God’s ultimate plan, no matter the outcome, is a refreshing dose of peace.
Vischer closed with the prayer, “Let us never confuse the work we do for you with our relationship with you.”