The blessings of singleness #7: The pain of losing dreams
Apologies for the lack of blog. I haven’t been able to write because of the emotional, physical and spiritual preparation that goes into a 10 year high school reunion. Fear not: good times were had by all. It was the weirdest night ever. First, because I am fairly certain I have never seen 79% of those people in my life. Seriously. Who were all those people? And how come they all look so old?
In actuality it was kind of a wonderful time for me. Surprisingly an encouraging reminder of how different I am than I once was. And it’s prompting this blog because it illuminated to me another one of the painful blessings of singleness: the pain of watching as your plans for your life are cannibalized by time.
There was so much insecurity at the reunion that I could taste it. There were so many people who were desperately ashamed that their lives hadn’t turned out according to the plan they had proclaimed in high school. They tried to quiet this shame by campaigning for the things they have done well or by tearing down someone else who was absent. They declared loudly how much they hated the very thought of those dreams that had once defined them, but despite the volume of their protests, their insecurity spoke louder.
And I understand. I really do. I have single friends who desperately want to have children, and each birthday seems to bring with it a wave of dream crushing hopelessness. I watch their faces as other friends talk about how their 3rd child was a beat down simply because they were too old to be having children after 30. Every off-the-cuff comment about the challenges of having children over a certain age is one more dig in the heart of the single who longs for a family.
I’ve felt this same pain in my own heart when a married friend reminds me that I can’t be too picky at my age. I feel the stab of insecurity when I hear comments about aging bodies and I look at my own and wonder if I’ll get to share this life with anyone before I become a 90-year-old cat lady.
It’s hard. It’s hard to let go of dreams. It’s painful to see the details of life creep in and steal from you things that you were certain were secured.
And it reminds me of Ruth. She’s a good kid. And I can’t stop thinking about the way she walks away from everything that might give her security or comfort or worth or value and walks into a future that has no certainty or promise of earthly treasure. And that reminds me of the call to follow Christ. It reminds me of the death that we have to die in order to have life.
And thinking about Ruth and thinking about reunions reminds me of something I really hate about my job. It’s maybe the thing I hate most about my job.
I watch women follow Jesus radically like Ruth did; I watch them walk out of lifestyles that are impossible to leave and I watch them dive into serving God with everything and I watch them look like they are running back to Bethlehem, turning their backs on Moab.
But as time passes I see them become frustrated with God; disappointed. They’ve given him their lives, just like Ruth, but they haven’t seen their Boaz yet. They left Moab, they came to Bethlehem, but now they are confused about why their dreams aren’t coming true.
And then I have the incredibly painful experience of watching compromise creep in. God isn’t satisfying their dreams on their timeline so they find ways to make it happen for themselves. They start dating a guy who may not be a crazy ‘Bible thumper’ but he goes to church, and besides – they don’t want to judge anybody, right?
They explain to me that they were never cut out of the ‘radical’ lifestyle. They justify their decision to compromise on purity or in the work place or in the city because they can just feel God calling them to this person, this job, this location.
They not only buy the lie that they can love the world and still love God but they preach it to themselves and others in an attempt to muzzle the rumble of conviction inside.
And I think the reason I hate this part of my job is that it is unbelievably terrifying to me. I’m not angry with these women. I’m not scoffing at their choices. I’m terrified. I’m terrified because I get it. I’m terrified that I’ll do the same. And more than anything I don’t want this to be me. I don’t want to look like Ruth in one moment only to find that I was only following Jesus as a means to some other end. I don’t want to look like I’m walking toward Bethlehem, having left everything that once defined me behind, only to look down and realize that I’m only walking this way because I think that the old gods I used to worship have moved into Bethlehem. I can feel it inside of me. I can feel the pain of lost dreams moving in me and luring and enticing me. I can feel the pain of not getting want convincing me that I can take my dreams from the world in one hand as long as I just keep holding Jesus with the other.
I hear the same unoriginal lie in my ears that haunted Eve; the lie that I am somehow missing out by giving every piece of my heart and life to Jesus; the lie that Jesus is holding out on me.
You will waste the pain that comes from losing your dreams if you refuse to let the disappointment drive you like Ruth to let go of all those hopes and put your whole heart into God’s plan for your life, trusting Him to give you what is best.
If you refuse to do this you will eventually find a way to make your dreams happen for yourself, and miss the only thing that really offers you the peace, joy and security you seek in the first place.
And I want to urge you not to do that. I want to urge you to turn to Jesus. Because I learned a lot at my reunion.
There are people who have met every timeline for their plans for their own lives. They got married when they wanted to and had babies when they wanted to. And most of them couldn’t hide the fact that they’re still recklessly afraid and insecure. They couldn’t hide the fact that they are dealing with the pain of what comes after you get your plan and still feel empty and alone sometimes at night.
And that’s why my high school reunion was so amazing. It reminded me that I don’t want my dreams. I really don’t. I mean, I do. I want a husband. I want to get to teach God’s Word. I want to write. I want all these dreams. But really I don’t. At the bottom of my heart, I just want to be happy. And I want to not be afraid. And I want to be wanted. And I want to be known.
This whole thing is so painful because somewhere along the way I began to believe that my dreams would save me. We all did. We began to believe that if we could just get that one thing we want we would be rescued from this gnawing sense of insufficiency inside of us. We want our dreams because we think they must hold the answer to the nagging insecurity that makes most of us skip the reunion altogether.
But temporal dreams are too small to fill that gaping hole. They’re just too small. And those deep longings in our hearts are just so much bigger. My heart won’t be satisfied by pleasure for 30 years. It wants pleasure forevermore. My heart won’t be satisfied by a love that fails 6 days out of 7. My heart won’t even be satisfied by a love that fails 1 out of every 365 days. My heart needs a love that will never fail. My heart needs a love that will always pursue, always forgive, never forsake, always fight.
And that love is the only hope I have that I won’t trade my Jesus just so that I can have a better story at my 20 year high school reunion. While everything in me is willing to exchange everything for nothing, I have Someone refusing to let me compromise. I have Someone who has promised to fulfill my deepest dreams in every moment.