Why I’m Choosing to Let Go of My Dreams
Most people who know me probably would recognize me as somewhat of a dreamer. Creative, a little bit visionary, not terribly optimistic all the time, but definitely a hopeless romantic. I live for the happy ending, and my dreams often conjure up all sorts of scenarios that will bring them about.
Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted the fairy tale life. I was an avid reader and especially loved stories of adventure, heroes and heroines, magical creatures, and the happily-ever-after that most certainly came at the end. Real life was far from that, of course, but somewhere along the line, I began to believe that the fairy tale ending was the cure for real life.
The reward for all the pain, struggle, injustice, and hardship.
And because I was just getting to know God at the point that I was reading these stories, I began to attribute one to the other. I began to stitch together a belief system that if you live a life pleasing to God, He will reward you with a happy ending.
It’s amazing to me how the things you believe as a child can still affect you so powerfully as an adult. Especially when you’re not really aware of it. But what has brought this childhood belief to my attention lately has been a growing awareness of the quiet disappointment I carry around with me.
For me, it’s not that my life isn’t living up to my expectations. Or even that I’m unhappy. It’s more that certain circumstances just aren’t coming to pass the way I’ve imagined them in my dreams. That God isn’t following the brilliant script I’ve created—you know, the one with the heartwarming ending where everyone’s hugging and laughing together. I dream up these things without even trying or realizing that’s what I’m doing.
I do this a lot (like, A. LOT.) as a mom. Whether it’s a momentous occasion like graduation or a family vacation, or an intended heart-to-heart in the kitchen, I’m always dreaming up some idealized scenario of how it’s all going to go down. A “Kodak moment” (remember those?) or a Hallmark made-for-TV movie. My motives are good, but who can live up to that? It’s a recipe for disappointment, yet I do it again and again, hoping this time, God will make it all turn out the way I want.
I have a pretty unshakable belief in God’s ultimate good plan for us. And I believe that, in the end, all will be made right, perfect, and joyful when His kingdom comes in fullness. And that at last, “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)
The problem is, I want it all now.
The problem is, without meaning to, I’ve been living my life persistently disappointed when the fairy tale ending doesn’t happen, as if either God has failed or I haven’t lived up to my end of an imaginary bargain.
And it is imaginary. God doesn’t promise justice every time. He doesn’t promise healing every time, or restoration, or victory. Ultimately, He does–I still believe that. But not in every situation, not even in every situation where the consequences are big, or dire, or really, really important to us.
Sadly, I think the root of those dreams isn’t that I’m a hopeless romantic. It’s that I believe I know what’s best. For me, for my situations, and a lot of the time, what’s best for other people, too.
But I really don’t know.
And holding onto those kinds of dreams and that imaginary bargain can only disappoint me and limit my perspective about what God is actually doing in the midst of my circumstances. I risk missing it altogether because I’m focused on my own script instead of the Lord’s. And the truth is, even when my dreams have been shattered, He is still working for my good, and for the good of others.
I think it’s critical that we acknowledge our disappointments and shattered dreams, especially to the Father. He totally gets it. He understands, and He will comfort us. If we don’t voice them, our disappointments can turn into bitterness and begin to color how we see everything.
But once we voice them, we need to let them go. Not only our disappointments and heartbreak, but the dreams themselves.
This is a hard one for me. But it’s where my faith and trust in Him have to kick in. Because when I choose to hold onto something for dear life (like I do my dreams), my hands are not free to receive what He offers me instead. And that is always something better. Even if I don’t see it quite yet.
I’m letting go of the dream, the hope, the desires of the old me—the me that was formed and raised in the clutches of uncertainty
and in the seductive lure of hopelessness.
Those dreams, albeit core and foundational longings of the heart,
are ones made too small and narrow by former realities,
the shadows or refracted images of what is now possible and true.
So I must let go of the old dream to make room for the new:
the new possibilities,
the new dreams,
a new hope.
For hope is arising within me; it springs forth, promising a full bloom.
Why should I let my thoughts linger on former days spent hiding from the storm,
watching the rain from the window and praying for the clouds to part and make way for the sun?
No, the Truth now lies in springtime warmth, the beauty and hope that is right here before me.
The Lord has drawn my dreams of old like a needle and thread
through the curtain that marks entry into a greater Kingdom reality.
So, while the essence of the dream remains, it changes shape and form to reflect a new paradigm,
and the promise of what has been hoped for now awaits me there.
It is real and tangible and true, but my eyes and heart must recognize it in order to lay hold of it with both hands.
I cannot be torn between two worlds: one that is constrained by the limits of brokenness, and one that offers life and fullness and endless possibilities, made possible by the One who has made me.
I stand over the gap of a deep and frightening chasm, one hand clasping, grasping at the now-present-future Truth that offers itself to me.
My grip on the side behind me is weak and tenuous; still I must risk letting go of what’s behind to take hold of the Truth with both hands.
So this I choose; this I must do:
I am letting go.
—”Letting Go,” from my upcoming book, Grafted In: Leading Your Orphan Heart to the Spirit of Adoption