Sometimes I feel like God has a way of taking away with one hand and giving with the other. No, that’s not quite right. Maybe it’s more that God waits until we let go of something before giving us a new blessing.
God pointed out to me the other day that I’ve been holding on to old dreams, really old dreams, ones that life forced me to push aside nearly a decade ago, but that I have kept in my heart. I’ve pegged them as “one day”, maybe after the kids have left home and we don’t need to be quite so secure financially, maybe when I retire, maybe when… I don’t know. They’re not possible now, but one day I’ll make them happen. Maybe if I keep praying for it, keep telling God this is my heart’s desire, maybe then God can miraculously pull it off, make it work. After all, I’ve heard of God doing some pretty amazing things, dusting off buried dreams and fulfilling them more than was ever dreamed in the first place, pouring them out over and above what was ever expected.
I held on to hope.
But what I didn’t realise was that I was also holding on to the past, and this was holding me back from being able to step fully into my future, what God is preparing me for and for me, soon.
As long as I haboured hope for this “one day” dream, I held part of me, part of my abilities and giftings back from God, stopping God from being able to bring life and flourishing now.
I was keeping such a tight hold on my dream that it wasn’t able to grow and change, and nor was I.
Yes, life had ripped it cruelly from my grasp in the first place, and the disdain for my dream that I saw in people around me belittled how much life and hope I had poured into it. But a decade is too long to hold onto something with such a death grip. Here I am, nearly ten years down the line, praying for God to open new futures, set gifts and abilities to flourishing, all while deep in my heart, not even always consciously, I’m busy saying “it needs to include this, be shaped like that, use these skills of mine. God, I want your wonders, your power, but only if it looks like what I want.”
How is that living in God’s will?
I’ve found that God is patient with me, pointing out one poisoned root at a time, giving me a chance to dig it out and find a new balance before pointing out the next one. As I’ve cut out root after poisoned root I’ve had to stop trying to balance on my own, like a stool with not quite enough legs, instead I’ve begun to lean on God, to increasingly build my life on that firm and unshakeable foundation.
A few days ago I was struggling to write, knowing that God was pointing here at these old cherished dreams, but not wanting to let them go. They were so precious. This was my vision of a successful life. What does life even look like without this somewhere? I had shaped my life around these dreams for so long, even after they were shattered I tried to keep a door open, keep a “just in case” alive. And God was asking me to close that door and turn away, to let this dream die.
To be fair, this wasn’t just a letting go, a casting off; God has been raising up new dreams, new gifts in my life over the last year, giving me a new vessel to pour hope into. But I had set them side by side, telling God that if this new dream was going to happen, then it had to include room for the old as well. I couldn’t turn away from the dream I had held precious for so long, it felt like part of who I was, part of my identity. But my dreams and hopes don’t form my identity, my gifts and abilities don’t either. My identity comes from God, my heavenly parent, my master. And I will bend my will to God’s, and I will fill my heart with God’s desires, not my own. And that desire I know God will give me (see this version of Psalm 20:4), just as God has given me new dreams to hold, a new path to follow.
I don’t know where I will end up, my dream isn’t shaped around a destination this time, no “if I get here, then I am a success.” Instead it is shaped around what I can do now, today, with the strength and life I have right now. And it will continue to be shaped by God, not me. I’ve learned to hold the dream lightly, but to trust the Dream-Giver. The One who gives dreams also gives what we need to step into them, knows the best ways for them to grow.
And so I let go of the old, stepping forward and away, into the unknown, but trusting that God knows the big picture, and that it will be Good.