With great extravagance, I paid full price to see the same movie in the theater twice this year. It is the first time in my life I recall doing such a thing. My husband went a third time.
The Greatest Showman caught us unawares. No surprise that we loved A Million Dreams, Come Alive, or This is Me, 3 songs full of all the God-sized vision and destiny we’ve built a life around. But there was a haunting that came from Jenny Lind’s Never Enough and the parallel journey of P.T. Barnum. It settled deep. It resonated.
In the movie, Barnum is a dreamer. His vision, which starts as a desire to delight his sweetheart, is birthed as a child in poverty. As it grows to provide more for his children, dignify those society cast out*, and ultimately create a show where the impossible comes true, his dreams overtake him.
Ah, the problem of being overtaken by your own dreams, especially ones with all the trappings of goodness, provision, and delight.
And the sun can’t stop us now
Watching it come true, it’s taking over you
Oh, this is the greatest show
Because yes, a dream to change the world can take over you. And sometimes, it takes watching a movie a few times to wake you up.
My husband and I are dreamers. The kind that want to bring goodness, provision, and delight to each other, our kids, employees, community (and world, if we’re honest). We dream big dreams and, with the power of our Enneagram 1 and 8 and NJ Myers Briggs Type, we get a lot done. A lot. It’s how we role. This is us. This is life. We do it well.
What we don’t do well is rest. Vacation without intention. Enjoy lazy Saturday afternoons or wait for the entire tank of gas to fill up (my latest realization about my pace of life).
But it gets worse.
I struggle to be present to my kids, always distracted by clutter in my mind. I want more fun, light-hearted conversations with my husband instead of our usual strategizing and solving. I judge others’ dreams if they seem too small, too selfish, uninformed. It is ugly.
Ugly cloaked in the good works of justice-oriented, heart-restoring, purpose-driven dreams. The complicated combination of our glory and our enemy’s assault on it, is usually a very blurry line. When what we dream becomes the show, will it ever be enough?
As P.T. Barnum’s dreams come crashing in upon him, he has a wakeup call. It is a reminder of who it was all for. My husband sees every man in mid-life, himself included, caught in the race to provide (Braces! College! Retirement!) and the race to measure-up (against his title, his salary), overtaken by the dream, forgetting who it’s for. I see us wives in Charity Barnum, Mountains and valleys and all that will come in between, Desert and ocean, You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream, Always in motion, So I risk it all just to be with you, And I risk it all for this life we choose.
We dreamers who choose adventure, who have big vision and big hearts and big ideas, can get lost.
We who are always in motion, can take too big of risks. Sometimes it’s little ballerinas on stage looking out to an empty seat. Sometimes it’s little tween daughters having to repeat themselves too many times because mom’s mind is elsewhere. Sometimes it’s our own sweetheart.
The gift to me and my husband in The Greatest Showman is that Barnum’s wakeup call could serve as ours. His vow, And let this promise in me start, Like an anthem in my heart, can become ours. Our dreams are beautiful, all of them. The dream to enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon and the dream to eradicate fatherlessness. Because the greatest show is the one God has created and created us for and more often than not, we’re already in it.
Cause everything you want is right here in front of you**
*I’m addressing merely what the movie represents as it does not deal with the controversy regarding the real P.T. Barnum’s view of and treatment toward his circus performers.
**All italicized lines are lyrics from The Greatest Showman Original Soundtrack.
Beth Bruno is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Her writing has appeared at Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman, InterVarsity’s The Well, and she is a proud member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. She can be found in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and 3 kids or at www.bethbruno.org.