I deeply appreciate Phil Vischer for sharing his "dark time of searching" after his dream died. Ultimately, God renewed his heart, and gave him a vision.
If you missed Part 1 about how Phil's dream went boom in a big way, read here to catch up.
During a six month span, Phil Vischer went from eating strawberries in an L.A. hotel room with his wife, and receiving an interview request from TIME magazine, to sitting in the back of a bankruptcy courtroom watching every Veggie Tales song and character he had worked on being sold.
The back story
Phil dreamed of being the next Walt Disney, and he thought he knew God's will for his life: build a Christian Disney.
In 2001, Phil grossly miscalculated the number of people he had hired. He thought it was God's will that Veggies Tales catch up to Disney and Nickelodeon. He overspent, and a major project failed.
His Veggie Tales Empire crashed, and everything he had worked on was sold in bankruptcy.
The beginning of the end of his dream
There were a string of things that went wrong.
Phil kept thinking, "God doesn't let us down....He will save the day because He wants me to build a Christian Disney so he will come through." So when the project failed, he thought the next project would come through, and God would ride in on a white horse, and save the day.
But God didn't.
He was caught in a lawsuit with a former distributor. He had to lay off half of the company's workforce: people had moved across the country, switched churches, and found new homes to be part of Veggie Tales. It weighed heavily on him.
For two and a half weeks, he wore a suit (the "third level of hell for an artist"), and sat in a Texas federal courthouse.
A dark time of searching
After every song and character was sold in a bankruptcy proceeding, Phil cried so hard that his lawyer drove him to the airport. He knew Veggie Tales was over.
Phil asked, "Why didn't God ride in? His theology was up for grabs. "It was a dark time of searching."
A year earlier, his wife had bought him a study guide on Samuel and leadership written by Henry Blackaby. She didn't give it to him because she didn't want to be His Holy Spirit.
When God speaks through Henry Blackaby's words
Everything was falling apart. He didn't want to wake up. He was putting on socks when he noticed the book by Blackaby. He opened it, and read these words:
"If God has given you something to do for the people, and it is going horribly, maybe it didn't actually come from God, but from your own mind."
"You have to remember that God hasn't asked you to make up things to do for Him. He has asked you to be obedient to Him."
-from Henry Blackaby's study guide on Samuel.
Those words hit Phil like a "ton of bricks."
Phil realized God had never told him to be the next Walt Disney, to hire 200 people, and to do as much as he could, as fast as he could, to catch up to Disney.
He remembered God had told him to tell stories for kids, but it wasn't God who told him to become like Disney.
Where did this drive to become the next Disney come from?
Phil said, the drive to be the next Disney came from his own insecurity as a middle child. When his dad left the family when he was nine years old, it broke his heart, and he latched onto this dream to be the next Walt Disney.
God's mercy disguised
His observation today: "God loved me so much that He let it fall apart." Becoming the next Disney wasn't a burden God gave him, and God in His mercy relieved Phil of his burden.
Phil: "Anything that becomes more important than God is an idol." "Even if it is something good like family, marriage, kids, ministry."
He believes his story resonates with people even if they don't have an entrepreneurial dream. A woman came up to him after hearing his story, and told Phil that being a mom was her idol. Her last child is at college, and she doesn't know who she is anymore.
Phil's new perspective on dreams
"We worship dreams in our culture." "Dreams are our religious experience." Instead of calling it a dream, Phil now calls it a "good idea." "If I call it a dream, then I'm holding onto it too tight."
"We sew these things [dreams] into our skin" so it is going to hurt when they are taken away.
[I understand where Phil is coming from, but may I suggest, the word "dream" can be used, if one can hold it loosely, like a jellyfish, and not like a barracuda or an octopus. (Going with his sea creature theme.)]
He named his new project: Jellyfish Labs...to remind him of what he had learned. Jellyfish can't move laterally. It goes wherever the current carries it.
He acknowledges, in the past, he acted like a barracuda by calling the shots. Phil freely admits, it was "hubris to tell God: I know what You need me to do."
These days, he says, "obedience is my business," and I'm not a barracuda telling God what big things I am going to do for Him.
Jellyfish are beautiful in water as they are carried along by the currents. Phil's new mantra: "My beauty comes from being carried in the current of His will." "There is a sense in that you are not in control."
How does being like a jellyfish translate into other areas of his life?
Phil: I'm a better leader when I walk with God instead of being focused on being a good leader.
On parenting: "The best thing I can do for my children is to walk with God before them." He tells them about how he is praying about a project at work.
What is his new creative vision?
After 10 years of Veggie Tales, he realized he needed to go deeper. He was telling kids to live as a Christian with Veggie Tales without really telling them why. For example, it is the Holy Spirit who enables you to live the Christian life.
He wants to explain deeper concepts, like salvation and redemption, in a way that makes sense to kids. He uses two avenues: 1) "What's in the Bible" DVD series, and Jelly Telly, link here to learn more, http://www.jellytelly.com/
Phil has found new joy in his relationship as a jellyfish being led by the current of God's Spirit and love.
This post is inspired by an interview with Phil Vischer I heard a few years ago: if you want to listen, link to Part 2 of "Finding Hope After Your Dream Dies..."
What part of Phil's story resonated with you?
How are you like a jellyfish, or a barracuda in your relationship with God?
What do you think of Phil's statement: "Anything that becomes more important than God is an idol?"
P.S. Thanks for being a part of my Dream Series. I'm sensing, maybe, one more post, then wrapping up the series.
If I end the Dream Series today, what have you liked about the series? What do you wish there had been more of, or less of?
As always, I appreciate your presence, and your thoughts, shared here, or in person. Thank you!
Psst...I'm thinking of starting a series on women in the Bible...maybe in a few weeks, and it would only be on Mondays.
Phil Vischer image sourced from: atutele.com
Grateful to be linking with these beautiful communities...You will be blessed if you visit these sites:
Copyright Dolly Lee/Soul Stops 2012.