shattered dreams.

{{I should really try to blog more often because when I do they end up being novels instead of short stories.  I’ve been reeling these past few weeks and am just starting to make my way through the fog to some sort of clarity.  So for those who may be interested in an update, here are my past weeks in a quite lengthy nutshell.}}

I’ve always had big dreams.  I would be a doctor in Africa.  Or a Human Rights Officer for the UN.  I would move to L.A., to Chicago, to London.  I would go to Law School or write books or speak or get my PhD.  In every season of my life, I have planned for what’s next.

In truth, I’ve spent the last few years getting buried under failures.  Another failed relationship.  Another missed opportunity.  Another rejection.  Another heartbreak.  Another disappointment.  Another screw up.

I came to a point where I just gave up.  I started making life happen on my own.  I never expected good things; never expected to succeed; never expected to love or be loved.  I didn’t even try.  I passed a lot of blame and told lies to make myself look better.  “I suck at life” became my mantra.  I did not hope, because I found nothing to hope for.

After Hadley was born, I opened up a journal and wrote my preface: “For the chapter in my life beginning with Hadley.”  I planned to write my memoirs.  My “rediscovery” of “hope.”  If there was to be such a thing, surely it would begin with this beautiful daughter of mine.

I pictured the end of my story: 12 months later, Hadley and I would be packed into my VW Golf.  It would be her first birthday and, as a result, her first day with her carseat facing forward.  I would look at her through my rearview window; I would smile and exhale a breath of relief and hope.  A new perspective, I would think to myself as I backed out of my parents’ driveway and began our move away from Fargo, into our bright and hopeful future.

I think it was November when I realized my pending doom of Hadley’s first birthday.  My life had not changed!  I was the same, depressed, anxious person!  I was still a failure!

I scrambled through grad school applications, job applications; researched moves, cities, money; made plans.  I became so overwhelmed by possibilities that I threw them all out the window and resolved to return to UND.  Then I became so overwhelmed by the thought of spending even one more year in the frigid cold of North Dakota that I filled out one other application for San Francisco State University.  Not necessarily the best program, but a new city.  A New Start.  And I hadn’t worried myself past the deadline.

I had a new dream: I would move to San Francisco, get my Master’s, get my fresh start.  I would meet the man of my dreams, fall in love, get married.  Together we would change the world.  No more loneliness.  No more anxiety or depression.  No more eight month winters.  Just me and Hadley and our new man and the life we had been waiting for.

In the midst of this new dream, several others arose in its wake.  As I began to meet God in a fresh way and experience a life of following after him, I began to open myself to the possibility that my dreams might not be His.  So I tried to rest, tried to wait, tried to take steps forward where I could and see what he might have for me.  I tried to hope, tried to believe that He is Good and so whatever He has is Good.  But secretly I believed that his Good Thing would be a move, a Master’s, and a husband.

When I got my rejection letter a couple of weeks ago, I read and re-read the words through angry tears.  It followed a string of smaller plans shattering, one after another, leading me to believe that my acceptance to San Francisco State was the beautiful answer God was waiting to give me.

Well the answer was No.

I felt the pain of rejection, but not just this rejection, the pain of all my plans dissolving against my will; the pain of rejection over years and years of dreams; the loss of hope for Good, for Better, for Next.

In the midst of my fury, I cleaned my house.  Nothing like a nice messy distraction.  I put Hadley to bed and went for a run on my Walmart treadmill.  I thought about calling friends.  Checked my email for the 45th time that day.  Facebook-stalked for awhile.  Then finally out of utter exasperation, I sat down at my kitchen table with a cup of tea and a candle and my Bible and journal.

I cried.  Maybe even yelled.  “Really, God?!  Really?  You couldn’t just get me out of here?  You couldn’t let something good happen for me?  You couldn’t just give me what I want for once??!”

I thought of this book I bought nearly four years ago.  It was one of those recommended by a friend that I ran out and purchased only to add it to my collection of Great Books I’ve Never Read on my bookshelf.  Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb.  I didn’t want to read it.  I was certain I knew what he would say.  But I also don’t think this book I’ve never read just came to my mind by chance, so I decided to try listening for once.

Shattered Dreams goes through the story of Naomi in the Bible.  While I’ve read the book of Ruth many times, it has always been some analysis of the great woman Ruth was, never Naomi.  Crabb points out the loss Naomi experienced – the death of her husband and two sons; the death of her dreams of being a grandmother, of growing old with her husband, of happiness.

There’s so much more to the book and this has already gotten long enough.  So Read It.shattered_dreams

But the big point – the big lesson I’m learning – this radical idea that I’m not sure I’ve totally grasped or ever will – is that God’s mission in my life is not to make me happy in the way that I imagine happiness.  It might seem simple and commonsense or complicated and completely enraging to you.  To me it’s a little of both.  But the new part is this: to deeply know God – to let him radically fill my soul – to depend on Him alone for my peace, joy, comfort, happiness, wholeness, love – to devote my life to trusting him – That is to experience happiness.  That is where I will find hope.

Larry Crabb argues that God will shatter my dreams in order to reveal my greater desires.  To show me that knowing Him can bring the satisfaction that I think can come from a move or a husband or a new job or a new life.  And to embrace those desires, to not hide from the pain, and to not cope the way I always have, but to fully immerse myself in the truth of the hurt that comes from my dreams being shattered, is to reveal the deeper longing of my soul that can only be met by Jesus.

I wish I could adequately express the beauty of this truth the way that I’m experiencing it.  It’s painful and hard and often dark and scary.  But at the same time it’s peaceful and sweet and intimate and wonderful.

I am terrified as I write this, anticipating the rolled eyes or cynical responses that I might have given myself only a few short months ago.  It’s the same pride that sent me into hiding the past few weeks, determined to never tell that I applied to San Francisco State so that I never had to confess that I was rejected.  But I believe every ounce of that pride I give up will move me closer to Jesus.  So I will confess:

I was rejected by San Francisco State.  It hurts.  Still.

And I may live in Fargo for another year, or another ten years.

I may never get married, never get a Master’s degree, never work for the UN or live in Africa, though I doubt I will ever stop striving towards those things.

But I am hopeful.  Because I am experiencing Jesus on a deeper level than I ever would have had I gotten all of the things I was so sure I wanted right when I thought I wanted them.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary struggles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes – not on what is seen – but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“The LORD will fight for you.  You need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:14

2 Responses

  1. Hey Kendra,

    This was one of my mother’s favorite books. She gave me a copy as a gift three or four years ago. I recall thinking about how this book promoted a sort of rebellious faith; sort of a a faith that looks personal catastrophe in the face and laughs.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Your post was beautiful, poignant and spoke truth to me in ways that you couldn’t know I needed.

    Dylan and I are filling out applications for short term missions. We’re at a crossroads (again) of what God wants/could possibly want for our lives. And in the midst of this, I feel lost. Grasping at anything that could possibly be a sign or answer from God, willing and hoping Him towards what I think I want. It’s hard to come to terms with the face that we’ve only been given the unknown. Such a blessing and a stress all in one.

    We’re praying for you and Hadley. Keep pushing on, there’s always something on the horizon…even if it is another unknown.

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