Sunday, November 27, 2011

What We Learn from Broken Dreams



NOTE: This is the fourth in a series on When Our Dreams Don't Come True.

You should see my budget envelopes. They are tattered, torn, their edges taped, then re-taped. Their contents by the end of the month, long emptied of the bright blue Indonesian bills that pay for my groceries, my phone minutes, the gas for our kitchen stove, gifts for kids’ birthday parties, etc.

They don’t contain the $30,000 I would need to adopt a child from India.

Last week, we discussed this issue of what happens when our dreams don’t come true. I’ve shared my story, of how I wanted to adopt a child even as I feared this dream of mine. How we all have dreams that don’t make it, and the reasons why they fail. What we can do with these big ideas of ours.

Today I’ll share with you what my broken dreams have taught me.

1. Our big dreams reveal our bigger hearts.

I am a saver. I’d rather have money than things. I’d rather spend energy than cash. So, when we first looked at the price tag of adoption, years ago, I knew, just knew, that we just couldn’t do it. Not with our salary. Not with our hard-saved bank account.

But I’ve already seen how big numbers can be raised, how donors give out of little, how my trust grows when I sign up for dreams that don’t fit into the ratty-old envelopes.

I don’t know yet if we will ever get to spend that kind of money on an adoption. But now I see it. I see how big my heart for orphans really is. When we dream big—and even when the dreams fail, we see how far we will go for big things. We come to understand what matters—what really matters. And if we can keep alive the dream behind the dream, then we can watch it overflow out of life’s failures.

So, now I spend other things for orphans—time, prayer, and maybe even some money here and there to help others adopt. And when I empty myself, I see big dreams fill up.

2. Our broken dreams teach us compassion for shattered lives.

I have lots of big ideas. Some are buried in an entry I made in a long-forgotten childhood journal. Many of them are not nearly so noble as wanting to adopt. If I’m completely honest, one of my most long-standing dreams is that people will like me, will notice me, will want to know me. Notice the repetition of “me.”

You may have read about how I grew up moving all around, making and losing friends, creating a List meant to protect, that simply hid my heart broken by rejection.

Now I see it. I see how this deep-down ache for relationship pushes me to reach out to the least. I understand that the drive for finding friends I’ve had since I was a kid walking to school alone gives me the courage to make friends with the lonely. I get that a lifetime of plastering smiles over my wounds has given me skills to see past others’ grins into sad hearts.

So, I now live on a remote island in a country many people can’t place on a map and I daily pursue friendships with women in need. If God had answered my childhood (and my adult) prayers—for popularity, for all rejection to end, for notice from others, I may have missed out on this bigger dream of caring about others—others’ rejection, others’ hurt, others’ brokenness.

3. We can remember the dreams that succeed when we see the ones that fail.

Much of my day is spent in the menial--laundry, cooking, changing diapers, grocery shopping. But I long for eternal purpose, even as I live in the temporary. When we take the time to dream, to plan, even to grieve the dreams that seem to fail us, we remember to think about more than what is in front of us.

And when we think beyond the piles of laundry, we might just see the stacks of dreams to which God has said, and is saying, "yes."


Maybe you are already living dreams, and maybe, just maybe we need to be thankful for the ones that are happening now. To be honest, our plates are full of other big dreams that also seem scary but that are coming true. To add adoption into this mix right now at this moment could mean that we'd have to let go of other big things.

Sometimes I see only the broken things. The failures. The hurts. But when I remember to believe, and call out to the Fixer, I let faith open my eyes to dreams come true.

So, what are you learning in the midst of dreams failed or maybe never begun? To Whom do you give the broken pieces?

photo credit, erix!

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