The pastor on the screen asked us all to stand, and with a force of confidence that I had forgotten existed, he ended his prayer with “God help us to dream again.”
Immediately I felt my heart make a profound stank face. I felt the wind had just gotten kicked out of my chest. ‘No,’ I thought, my heart erupting angrily. ‘How is that fair to ask me to do that again?’
Here we were, sitting in day 1,500 something of delayed hope. Here I was, in bed, unwillingly, for the thousandth day. Ashley of 4 years ago’s dreams had been forced into retirement. They were dormant, and if I’m being honest, I had kind of hoped that by locking them in the basement they would have performed a convenient self-euthanasia by now. I hoped that dust had choked them, and I wouldn’t have to go down there and meet their eyes as I pulled the plug myself.
‘Wow, that sounds hopeless!’ you might be thinking!
It didn’t feel like it at the time, it actually felt practical. That’s why I’d like to go here.
When we don’t see what we expect to see when we expect to see it, if we’re not careful we can reduce our dreams to match our current reality.
I had left school with enormous dreams of working for a non-profit, mission work, and was strongly considering going back for a Masters or Doctorate in Family Research. Hope and possibility were brimming over and although I felt a little lost, I was exhilarated by the boundless opportunities that were becoming available to me.
When sickness came it knocked me flat, and taking care of my body required me to drop everything. Dreams of a family, world travel (AND DOMINATION), higher education, my dream work, and what ultimately felt like my destiny got tucked into a dusty old corner inside my heart.
As time progressed and no one could tell me which sickness was halting my life, the dust grew a little thicker. After being handed a ‘we literally have no other tests to try on you’ diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a crippling lifelong ailment, I finally stopped looking over at that corner of my heart altogether. It hurt too much.
“Dreams don’t give you hope, they break your heart!” I cried stubbornly at God. I heard him correct me quietly. “That’s a lie.”
This sounds so obvious down on paper, but this lie made so much sense to me. I struggled not to shut down and read Him the rap-sheet of failed dreams that I still kind of blamed Him for. God met me with his own grief, comfort and an “I’m sorry, this isn’t what I wanted for you.”
I kept running into this same statement that I want to dive into: “why does dreaming make any sense right now?” I kept repeating, “that’s cruel! I know I’m ultimately going to be disappointed because I don’t have an end-date for feeling so awful physically, so why should I even set myself up to feel that heartbreak?”
He began to tell me that dreams gave me life instead sucking the life out of me. He mentioned how I can check in with Him about when it’s time for certain things, and I don’t have to let timing steal my hope. He began asking me what I wanted my life to look like, and I got flooded with a hope that I had been starving for.
Let’s be practical. I still have no idea when I’ll be able to function fully again, have enough stamina to live my dream social life, road trip, settle down in grassy green European places, and travel the world with God. No clue. That doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen, even if a doctor’s prognosis is unfavorable. What I have is the promise that God’s good. He’s not a heart-breaker. He’s put desires in my heart for a reason, and Has made me promises because He loves me and is obsessed with the world. Yes, my expected timeline was way off on when my dreams would occur, and I felt the grief of it. The pressure I felt to do them all quickly wasn’t from God. And He still wants to hear my dreams. He doesn’t want them to die with disappointment.
I don’t get it, but I love it. I’ve got to love Him.
Once I know He’s good enough to never let me down, I can dare to take steps to dream again. When I have hope, I can bear through just about anything. I believe my circumstances will change and my body will heal, but until my life is my version of ‘perfect’ I have the final say in whether or not I want to be completely miserable. To not be miserable I celebrate things like “I didn’t want to punch everyone in the face today when I drove!” “I respected my limits and got out of that conversation without bottoming out on energy!”
Today I will sit and face my current reality while dreaming. It’s so tense guys! But I finally see it’s not stupid. I will think of the family I will build, the legacy I will get to leave. I will dream about a brainy and creative career, a life of surrender to Jesus, down to the details of the decor I want in my future apartment.
No, none of this is possible now. But it will be.
If I let sickness and circumstance steal my hope and my dreams, that’s on nobody but me. Maybe faith is a little less rooted in the practical, and a little more rooted in the dependability of the Promise-maker.
Here’s to a life riddled with hope, patience, and celebrations! #ididntpunchanybodyintheface