In his lengthy poem Montage to a Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes beautifully describes what happens to a dream deferred and asks if it shrivels up “like a raisin in the sun?” As an African-American man in the segregationist south, this poet knew quite a bit about dreams deferred and even dead. Later there was a play made, with the title taken from this quote (A Raisin in the Sun.) Not surprisingly it is about an African-American family. And dead dreams.
When I was twenty, I had a bout of severe health problems, including a long series of seizures and had to leave the college campus where I had been so happy. Most people’s dreams fade as they get older. Mine all crumbled when I was barely out of my teens.
While all my friends were getting married and starting careers and families I grew bitter. Often I felt that the people around me would be better off if I were dead.
Now I see it differently. If it’s true that some people would just as soon I up and died, there’s still no reason why I should oblige them. I intend to stay alive to spite them all out of sheer orneriness!
Besides this, as a Christian, I don’t believe I have the right to kill myself no matter how tough things get. Not my body, not my choice. God gave me my body and only He has the right to say whether I leave it or not. Not me or any of my ill-wishers. (God will deal with them as well. Revenge is His.)
This blog post is supposed to be about dead or dying dreams though. The fact is, that when a dream dies, it causes other doors to open.
You may wonder how that is. In The Paradox of Choice, professor Barry Schwartz describes how too many choices overwhelm the human psyche and can prove worse in some ways than too few. Not that that is a good thing either.
Dr. Schwartz describes some interesting methods near the end of his book. Flip a coin for unimportant decisions. But what about the important ones?
Narrow them down to two or at the most three options. Easier said than done, however.
Supposing there are a multitude of career options and scores of available men who want to date and perhaps marry you. How do you possibly narrow down each to two or three possibilities? You certainly wouldn’t want to flip a coin to make such an important life decision either.
When one of your dreams dies, that narrows the field drastically. If a door won’t open up despite all your efforts it probably means God is saying, “No!” very firmly.
Ironically a dead dream frees you to look at other options–options you might otherwise have not even considered. If you fail to find a husband and start a family, it may free you to consider a career in law or medicine that a young family would hinder. If you fail to become an English professor, it may encourage you to try freelance writing as a career. That’s what happened to me.
Jill Kilmont and Joni Eareckson both broke their necks as teenagers. Both became paralyzed from the neck down. Jill lost her dream of becoming an Olympic skier; Joni lost her dream of a normal life and marriage to her boyfriend. Both went on to find new dreams though–dreams they otherwise would never have considered.
Jill became a teacher. Due to discrimination from the educational establishment, she wound up teaching on a reservation for Native Americans.
Joni went on to become a dynamic powerhouse painter, speaker, writer, and singer. Eventually she found a fine Christian man who was able to look past her wheelchair.
When your dreams are deferred or just plain dead you need to ask yourself, “OK. So what do I have left?”
It really doesn’t pay to live in the past, bemoaning what can never be and wishing things were what they aren’t. If taken to its logical conclusion, such thinking can even lead to neurosis or a psychotic break. If God wanted you to serve Him in that way, He would have opened that door.
So now ask yourself, “What do I have left? How can I best use it for the LORD?”