Dreams Deferred, Hopes Realized
I have recently found myself swinging on a pendulum of thoughts and emotions between the “If only’s” and the “What if’s” of life; this tension between past actions and future dreams. These things can keep me up at night. Recently our granddaughter Violet woke up one morning at our house. I asked her what kind of dreams she had (This is a frequent question). Without hesitation, she told me, “I didn’t have any dreams, Nana, because my dreams were sleeping too!” She comes up with some doozies sometimes, but this one got me reflecting. What are the God-ordained dreams I have had during this time that have come to fruition, and which ones are yet to be realized?
In April I asked, “Lord, ‘what if’ a group of women from Baseline would want to virtually get together for connection and prayer during this season?” I started texting a few women, seeking out their responses to this idea. A few women responded “yes”, and we have now had sweet times of fellowship and prayer for five months. It’s truly been one of the great blessings for me during this time as we have reflected on the Psalms and their encouragement to trust God in uncertain times. If you are not part of a group that prays together, please consider joining us. Prayer is always a God-ordained dream.
Then there are the “if only’s”. I’m reminded of this every time I stare at my face in another Zoom meeting and see the extra wrinkles, pounds, and graying hair. My “if only’s” go like this: “If only…. I had developed healthier habits, exercised more, prayed more; if only I had slowed down enough to establish better rhythms, spoken with a gentler spirit in my home, reached out to my community more, read more books, written more cards, called my mom more, purged more closets, finished that project, watched less mindless TV and social media, etc. You catch my drift. You have your own list.
The apostle Paul had God-ordained dreams, some realized and some deferred. He expressed many times over his heart’s desire to go back to the church in Philippi one more time. In Philippians 1:8, his yearning, his “if only”, if you will, is palpable: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” He later wrote of his wishful thinking again in verses 25-26: “Convinced of this [my remaining here on earth for your sake], I know that I will remain and will continue with all of you in the progress and joy of your faith, so that by my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” Paul is writing this from house arrest, under the watchful eye of a Roman soldier, and his dream of returning to Philippi never came to fruition. But it didn’t prevent him from getting a written letter of encouragement delivered to those dearly loved people, and we are now the blessed beneficiaries of this joy-filled book, a dream realized.
It is never too late to steward this time! Maybe not all of my dreams during this time will come to fruition, but I can continue to look for ways to encourage the hearts of others so that their joy in Christ Jesus overflows on account of me. How about you? Our lists of “what if’s” will all be different. It’s never too late to ask God, in prayer, “What if You are gently pushing me to get beyond the confines of my own small world of comforts in order to increase the joy in Christ Jesus to overflowing for someone else?” Trust me, God has promised to bless these efforts, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13).” What an awesome promise it is!