"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finally Letting the Dream Die

I remember several months ago when I'd been home from Syria for about six months, I dropped off Michael and was talking briefly with my sister before heading home. Likely I said something about "Wow, it's been ___ months since we left for Syria" since I am prone to do such things.


Probably I also told again how kind and welcoming the people were to us and how much I missed them because my sister summed up my own thoughts by admitting if she went on a trip like that she'd have a hard time coming home! Precisely!

So this week - February 11 to be exact - marked a year since we got home from Syria. I've missed that place so many times since last February when we took that long flight home on Turkish Airlines. Secretly - or not - I have dreamed of going back and maybe living in Damascus for a while. Seriously, wouldn't it be exciting to live among the people, learn more about their culture, their thoughts on world events, family, politics, religion and enjoy the camaraderie, food, smells, sounds and experiences of this different culture? I've certainly thought so!

So that was my dream last year and, believe me, God knew it!

This year I finally decided to be a bit more mature about it. Instead of constantly longing for something I could not have, I have been slowly, but surely, trying to change my attitude to one of gratefulness that I was blessed by God with the ability to take this awesome trip!

Here are a few things I've read recently that have helped me along the way. Soon after the new year, Mark Batterson posted this gem: "Is Your Dream Your Idol?"

I'd thought for a while now that God wanted me to be content with HIM and not so much longing for everything else in life. I'd been complaining to Him about not really having much of a purpose and how He'd been really hard on me by taking away most of the areas where I'd had interaction with people (e.g. the women's gym closed and I loved the classes there and had friendly relationships with many people there; Angie got a job out of town so she was no longer in my area to visit at McDonald's as we did in years past). Don't get me wrong; I like my alone time and I don't really get bored since I enjoy reading books, looking on the computer and writing things. But I did on occasion enjoy something else that actually involves seeing humans face-to-face. And I felt stripped of that and was mad!

Anyway, I've lodged this complaint against God especially more post-Syria and often felt the impression of these lyrics from By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North.

Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run

Yeah, so why am I searching as if God isn't enough to fill this void in my life? Back to the above-mentioned post by Mark Batterson. In it he writes,

"I realize that many of our dreams never happen for one simple reason. We want it more than we want God. God becomes a means to an end. And our dream, which was meant to be a form of worship to God, becomes our god."

Um, ouch! Then he questions:

"Is your dream your god? Or is God your God? God will not be used. God will not be manipulated. God will not be played."

So I read that over a month ago and saved it to consider later which I am now doing. Actually I believe God used this post to get my attention and it's been since then that I've realized I let my dream become more important to me than God. As if living in Syria or finding some noble purpose in life would fill the space that only a relationship with God can fill.

Within this last month God has used other posts and magazine articles to confirm the same message. Like another one from Mark's blog in which he asks if we are ministering FOR God or TO God. He concludes this short post with a thought-provoking statement:

"I think one of the greatest dangers leaders face is this: we get focused on what God wants to do THROUGH us instead of what God wants to do IN us."

Maybe I'd been thinking "God, how can you work through me to do something for you" instead of thinking, "Lord, what do you want to do in my life. How do you want to transform me?

Then earlier this week I read an article about envy and although I don't think envy is necessarily my struggle, I could strongly relate to challenges in this article about being content because discontentment is my struggle! There were many things in this article that I highlighted including:

  • Brooding over unrealized expectations may lead to depression.
  • Abraham, Moses and Daniel were patient and practiced contentment.
  • Any other pursuit but satisfaction in Christ leads to a breach of character and loss of joy in serving Jesus.
  • What God has given you is more than enough.
  • Dwelling on what God has not given can draw away the heart to idolatry.
  • Find your fulfillment in Jesus Christ alone.

Good stuff, eh? It was like looking in a mirror and quite the challenge to "practice contentment" that I needed.

As the song from Tenth Avenue North goes to chorus, I'll end this post:

Cause I'll be by your side, wherever you fall
In dead of night, whenever you fall
And please don't fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you.


Joni said...

Susie, thanks for making sure I saw this. It's hard to be in the place where you are right now - unrealized dreams. I wonder if the book "Are You There God?" is still in print. It's by Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission. Oh, I found it on Amazon. I am sure you can find it at ABEBooks.com for cheaper. Anyway, in that book he talks about having a dream die.

Thanks for the honesty. I've can relate with what you are saying about being stripped bare. I've gone through that myself: having spiritual mentors move away, friends move to different churches, church staff we were close with leaving the church - ending with moving here and leaving the church we were at. No friends around, no family close by. It felt like we were starting from zero.

We'd been at a place in our old church were we were being looked on a pastoral candidates, had people who looked to us for mentoring, taught classes. We were involved! Then down here we felt like we had nothing. But in reality we still had (and have) Him and He's more than enough - even though I sometimes forget it. ;)

Sanil Atarah Rivka said...

Great post. :)

I'm sure you will get to do more exciting things in the future, but it's good that you are choosing to wait for God to give them to you.

I wanted to add only that Abraham didn't have patience and tried to make it happen himself (Ishmael). We know how that turned out. God has plans for us, but they'll happen in God's time. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Anonymous said...

I have been guilty of allowing a dream to become my idol...something I spent all my time focusing on and putting all of my energy into making sure it came to pass - realizing at some point that I was wrong to be so much more focused on my wants and needs as opposed to what God wants for me.

I enjoyed reading this post - reminded me that God is surely more than enough for all I will ever need or want.

Nocturnal Queen said...

Very good. It reminds me of the song "More Than Enough". Great song.


Wrestling With Religion said...

This was a very deep and heart-felt post!

Firstly - I don't talk to many people face-to-face either. You might guess that from how much I'm online! I feel glad for my online contacts, but at times it gets to me, so I can totally understand your frustration. I always wanted and prayed to have a best friend, but it never quite happened (yet).

Secondly... is there no way the dream can be adjusted or modified so it could maybe happen?? No way you could go back to Syria and stay a bit longer, maybe to get involved with a church project or something out there? I know it's not easy when you're married, but lots of men work away from home for periods of time! I don't know, I can tell how much you loved Syria...

Finally, I know you probably won't agree with this, but I don't like the aspect of Christianity that makes one suspicious of one's dreams and desires and regards them as potential "idols". It seems to me like an unChristian perfectionism, a hyper-vigilance about sin, kind of like what I was saying to Caraboska on LK's blog. It's like people don't dare be proactive about something that might make them happy incase their motivations aren't 100% pure... as if God is a strict parent ready to pick on us for the slightest imperfection, and not a loving father who actually wants us to be happy. As if there is no grace. But Jesus included sinners in the kingdom without requiring them to be perfect. I know my motivations have been far from perfect, yet I feel I have been so blessed anyway. My selfish stubbornness is something that has been worked on over time. I am much more likely now to want to do what is best. So... I think there is grace. :) I don't think we have to postpone all our dreams until our motivations are right, because if we did, we wouldn't experience so much of life, and wouldn't get so much chance to grow as a person and iron out the creases *through* those experiences.

Unfortunately in church I saw a lot of people interpreting any obstacles to their dreams as being signs that God is denying them the dream, rather than simply signs that life does not always go smoothly. That inevitably led to them questioning their own motivations and whether they are putting God first. I just don't think God is that needy. I don't think God would give us all this creativity and problem-solving ability and dreams and ambition and drive, if we're not to use it and instead wait for things to be miraculously easy so we know they're approved by God. I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but I've seen it so much in Christians and I feel strongly enough about it to say so.

You deserve to experience fulfilment of a dream. I don't want you to think that you don't. :)

Joni said...

Wrestling wrote: "Unfortunately in church I saw a lot of people interpreting any obstacles to their dreams as being signs that God is denying them the dream, rather than simply signs that life does not always go smoothly."

I agree. Sometimes Evangelicals can take 'obstacles' as a sign that God is closing the door. What I really think that is though is that we are letting our circumstances interpret God's will for us rather than just going straight back to God and saying "what next?" I think that we fail to realize that sometimes there are obstacles and it doesn't mean we are outside of what God is doing in us.

Suroor said...

These days I'm obsessed with getting a dog! I too have very few friends in teh real world and most of my good friends are online. I need a dog for distraction because then I get obsessed with the Internet or picking faults with religion :D

So I can clearly appreciate this post.

We should try and meet Susanne. It would be my dream come true. I love you so much!

Anonymous said...

Why can't you possibly plan to go back to Syria?

I felt your anguish and longing in your words.. and as the dreamer that I am, I ask "why can't she go back?"

Our dreams are meant to be followed..

With that said, I know how you feel though. I know what it is like to yearn for something and feel it is out of reach.

This is how I felt about graduate school for the last 2 years.. I have made a promise to myself that I will get my Masters degree, even if it is when I am in my 40's. :)

Maybe you can make a promise to yourself regarding Syria?

Joni said...

Sarah, I don't think Susanne was saying that she can't go back to Syria. I think what she is saying is that her longing for Syria has come between her and God and she began to hold it up and demand "why not?" with a fist rather than an open hand of humility and teachability. Course, I could be completely wrong and Susie you are welcome to correct me. ;)

Carmen said...

Susie, your post is humbling as your spirit shows a sincere heart as searching for what God truly wants.

Sometimes I think He's just waiting for us to verbalize to Him that He's all we need or want before He gives us our hearts desires. I think you'll get to see your Syrian friends again someday. I truly do. I hope and pray you do as they mean so much to you.

I hope to meet you in person someday. I would be honored to.

Anonymous said...

Joni, her post is titled "Letting the Dream Die."

I simply ask "why?"

Wrestling With Religion said...

I agree with you, Sarah. I see things pretty simply. But I've said enough on here already ;)

Susanne said...

Joni, great to see you here again! And thanks for your comment. I am sorry (?) you can relate to this, but glad you could remind me of the most important thing. Thank you for that. :)

Sanil, true about Abraham. Thanks for pointing that out and thanks much for your kind words.

Susanne said...

Chris! It's always good seeing your comments. Thanks for what you shared. I hope you had a great Valentine's Day with Shannon. Been missing the updates on your blog lately. :)

Niki, thanks for your comment and sharing that video. :)

Susanne said...

WWR, thanks for your kind words. Ha, ha....yeah, we are both online a lot. I am really thankful for the interaction on your blog. It keeps most days interesting for me. I appreciate you putting up with me there. :) I have some good friends, but they are so busy with life and I completely understand that and that doesn't make me angry in any way. Really, I'm NOT one of those who has to be going out doing something allllllllllllll the time. If I did that, I'd never have time to discuss things on your blog! :-) It's just there were places I could get more human interaction like the classes at the all-women's gym and then it closed due to the owner having major issues and that along with my friend Angie getting another job, I just felt kind of lonely at times. Mostly I'm fine; just every once in a while it would be fun to be able to talk and joke and express emotions without the need for these: :-D :-P ;-) :-(. Know what I mean. :)

About the other stuff.....I agree with most of what you said. I don't want you to think I feel God is strict and He wants to take away all my fun. There is a verse in Psalms that tells us to delight in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts. I actually believe that God DOES give us dreams and life following those dreams is what truly fulfills us. My issue was definitely a problem. I *chose* to live in sadness and resentfulness and even anger. There are a few times I came right out and admitted to Andrew and Samer that I was angry at God. Basically it's because I wanted my own way and like a spoiled child, I figured if I sulked and griped, He'd change his mind like an indulgent parent. So I knew all along I was wrong, but I wasn't quite ready to be a mature adult about it. :) Writing this post was an admission to myself more than anyone else that I had been acting like a two-year-old instead of thanking God for the opportunity He gave me to even take this trip in the first place. My focus was more on what God *wasn't* allowing me to do than *thanking* Him for what He *did* let me do.

I'm not saying He totally killed off my dream. I'm hoping one day - in HIS timing - I will be able to go there, and, if not for a longer visit, maybe at least for another 2 week visit here and there. I greatly appreciate your sweet comment. Thank you so much for taking time to write all that. Definitely I believe God gives us abilities and creativities and like any good parent He wants us to be content and fulfilled in life. I don't want you to get the wrong impression that I think somehow God wants us to all be miserable through life. I believe we find true fulfillment and joy in following Him. I just have been doing a lousy job of it lately.

Thank you again! I truly appreciate what you shared.

Susanne said...

Suroor, your comment was so sweet and funny! I hope you get your dog *and* Lord willing, one day we WILL meet! I love you,too. Thanks for all you've taught me through our friendship. I've learned so much through our discussions! I enjoy them so much! :)

Susanne said...

Sarah Elizabeth, welcome and thanks much for your thoughtful comment. I'm glad you are following your dream with determination to get your Master's degree! I hope that is going well for you now. :)

Yeah, hopefully, I will still be able to visit Syria. I'd love that. I guess my secret dream was to live there for a while and I don't see that happening any time soon. My biggest obstacle would be the practicality of it. For one thing my husband is self-employed in lawn care. Not so many lawns to take care of in Damascus. :-D But thanks so much for your comment and I'm glad you asked why. Maybe one day you'll read a post that says, "Guess what?! We're moving to Syria!" :-D

Joni, you know me well! That sums it up exactly! :)

Wrestling With Religion said...

I don't "put up" with you on my blog - I love getting your comments, it wouldn't be the same without you!

I understand being angry at God. Completely. I was the exact same way and I think it's a consequence of seeing God as personal and very involved in our lives. It creates certain expectations.

Susanne said...

Carmen, thanks much for your sweet and encouraging comment! Yes, it would be great meeting you one day as well. :)

WWR, " I was the exact same way and I think it's a consequence of seeing God as personal and very involved in our lives. It creates certain expectations." -- Nicely stated and so true about the expectations. Thanks for pointing that out. Your blog has been a place where I've learned a lot. I'm so glad you've shared your thoughts as you work through your spiritual struggles. I think you've helped a number of people stretch and grow. :)

Thanks everyone for your comments. I enjoyed all of them so much!