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Hopes and Dreams

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

–Langston Hughes

 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

–Proverbs 13:12

You know how, when you’re a kid, you dream of being something or doing something particular? And maybe you believe it’s possible just because that’s what kids do.

Then you grow up, and you forget the dream because it was just a childish whim. Or you remember the dream, and you laugh because it really was silly. Or you chase the dream with all you have, because the vivid, bright beauty of it never faded with age (this being the ideal, of course).

Or.

Or you make the dream smaller and squeeze it into your ordinary life. Now it’s dull and dust-covered. Or you bury it alive, and it’s dying away.

I have this dream that’s been part of me as long as I can remember. I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve never laughed at it, never. But it feels too big for me. I’ve been afraid to hope for it, afraid to desire it.

I heard someone say once that the phrase “hope deferred” from the Proverbs doesn’t mean your hopes have been dashed by people or circumstances. Instead, it’s when you and I defer (delay, postpone) our own hope that our hearts become sick. The difference seems subtle at first, but it’s rather profound. When we choose to put off hope … well, nothing good comes from it.

I wonder if that’s how Hughes meant it, too, when he spoke of a deferred dream. This beautiful fragrant thing, like fresh ripe fruit, that when we leave aside for too long, it rots.

And have you ever noticed how dreams and hopes go hand-in-hand? They’re like sisters, or fraternal twins. Hopes (desires) and dreams.

What is your hope, your dream? What have you done with it?

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June 20, 2009

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

That night after I watched the horrible movie (and I raged at my husband as the representative of all Men), I laid in bed and sobbed until I couldn’t breathe through my nose. While he drifted off into oblivious sleep, I considered.

That bitter, unforgiving itchbay I see in the mirror is only part of the picture. What I really am is a ball of pain, wrapped in multiple layers of self-preservation, and finished with an outer shell of spikes, rusty nails and barbed wire. Sort of like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate, except a little bigger and slightly less delicious.

I sat up in bed, partly so I could breathe again, but mostly to talk with Jesus. I said something like, “This is what I am, but it’s not what I want to be. It’s so deeply entrenched and so much a part of my DNA that I don’t know how to change. What am I supposed to do with all this pain? What can you do with me?”

Then I remembered a dream I used to have: There was an abstinence ministry in my heart. I dreamt of helping, loving, encouraging girls and young women, talking to them about abstinence, helping them live it out. I was willing to let my pain be like manure: Stinky, yes. But fertilizer for something much better. Funk with a purpose.

Then the weeds came. “You’re not even good at talking to people.” “Why would a teenager listen to you?” “What if it hurts?” “Who has time?” “What if it fails?” I was afraid, so instead of a garden, the pain became a landfill. The dream got buried under a bunch of distractions and life and crapola. Eventually and so slowly that I didn’t notice, it disappeared from sight. But it still stunk, except it stunk for no good reason.

Okay, I’m scared! I think I’m more scared now than I was before. Those same weeds are there, but they look more like trees now.

There’s the first step. It’s a doozy! Not sure I want to climb yet. Just … gimme a sec to mentally prepare.

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