College freshman often struggle to pick a major. I, on the other hand, was quite sure at 18 that I should study elementary education—which was ironic since I was lousy at school, had no desire to be in a classroom, and wasn’t sure I wanted to work with kids. Why in the world would I pick such a major?
My choice was based in large part on my dream of getting married and having 10 kids that I would need to homeschool since I wanted to work as a missionary—probably in Central America.
My dream began to unravel my freshman year when I failed the entrance exam that was required for anyone who wanted to become a teacher in my state. To make it worse, I got a D in my first Spanish class. Spanish was my minor, so I repeated that class to improve my grade. Only problem? The second time through the same course—I got an F. (This takes talent, my friends. I worked incredibly hard for that F.)
Fast forward 5 years and—by God’s grace—I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. My junior year I finally passed that freshman entrance exam after I went through testing for my learning problems and was registered as mentally handicapped in my state. My Minor? I changed that from Spanish to English after my university said they could not in good conscience take more money to teach me Spanish since I had such dramatic problems learning it.
How interesting it is to look back decades later.
As yet—I haven’t gotten married, haven’t had 10 kids, and haven’t moved to another country. However, the dreams God had for me are far better than I could have imagined. Turns out—I loved being a school teacher! I absolutely loved hanging out with kids! God used my desire to homeschool to equip me to help thousands of homeschoolers and teachers around the US as well as in other countries. A look at my passport shows stamps from multiple Central American countries. Apparently, it’s not hard for God to use me even though I do not speak Spanish (at least, not yet). And that English minor? That has served me well over a lifetime of writing and speaking.
Clearly, my dreams from long ago didn’t turn out as I had planned. While I rejoice in that God has done more than I could ask or imagine, there are times of significant grief that come with the losses along the way. I used to try to ignore the grief, but doing that means I miss out on the comfort God is so capable and willing to give.
Grief is the reason this segment of my life has been on my mind lately. I’m in the process of experiencing another dream-pivot. What I invested my time, energy, and savings in for the past few years has not turned out the way I planned. It’s been a great reminder that I can’t get my theology from Disney movies. The point of life is not to follow my dreams—but to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ.
Many consider what I do as a writer, speaker, and learning coach as living the dream. It has been an incredible adventure that is part of the dream God had for me that was beyond what I could have asked or imagined. As exciting as it has been to launch a company, there is no perfect dream life on an imperfect planet. Last week I set aside time to grieve the losses that come when the work we invested in for the last few years has not work out as we had hoped.
Part of the comfort God gave me last week came from one of the amazing Rabbit Room Press writers, Douglas McKelvey. In his book Every Moment Holy he has “A Liturgy for the Death of a Dream.” I close with a brief selection.
O Christ, . . .
You are the sovereign of my sorrow. . . .
Let me . . . release at last these lesser dreams
that I might embrace the better dreams you
dream for me, and for your people,
and for your kingdom, and for your creation.
You are the King of my collapse.
Now take this dream . . . and give it back
reformed and remade according to your better vision,
or do not give it back at all.
Not my dreams, O Lord,
Not my dreams,
But yours, be done.