We all have dreams to which we aspire. Echoing our original design as God's image-bearers, dreams present a picture of us flourishing. However, since we are fallen, we often desire the wrong things for ourselves, and we sometimes worship these over the Lord. Dreams, too, can reveal God-given passions that He may use for His glory. However, these passions are not always fulfilled. When our dreams do not manifest, we sometimes feel unsatisfied and useless, wondering why God gave us the passion in the first place. Below is a story of how God crushed the dreams which competed with my identity in Him.
My mom and I sat in a caf√© after my final audition for graduate school. I hung my head toward the mahogany table and covered my eyes as tears rolled down my cheeks. My mom reached her hand out to comfort me, but the pain of a broken dream brought too much despair. I wasn't accepted into the top fine arts program, which I believed was the only way to realize my ultimate dream of performing on Broadway.
Up until then, my theater pursuits had always worked out according to my plans. With the comfort of graduate school removed, like a rug pulled from under my feet, I had to stand on God's character. After months of prayer, God revealed how I relied on graduate education for success, and He encouraged me to trust in Him instead. So, I pushed through the feeling of shame and prepared to move to New York City. The Big Apple, the Concrete Jungle, brought challenges when I arrived, but through them, I witnessed God's provision as He gave an opportunity for me to live, work, and find community at a local church.
By God's grace, I had success in networking, booking shows, and building a relationship with an agent. Though my dream of Broadway persisted initially, the sting of shame came back after every rejection from an audition. Also, for the first time, theater disappointed me; I saw and participated in some plays that were not God-glorying or fulfilling. Day after day led to years of hustling in NYC, and exhaustion set in. The longing for Broadway began to diminish. The once treasure of my heart was gone. My singular identity as an actress was no longer appealing. While this inner change was happening, I grew deeper in my faith through my church's gospel-centered messages. Though its congregants were filled with artists, I didn't hear shallow sermons about God calling us to make it big in our fields. Instead, I heard sermons that pointed to salvation accomplished in Christ and how God wants us to live as a result. The gospel transformed my dreams. God replaced my desire for success with His desire for my sanctification. My longing to walk with God in deep communion, serve others as Christ served me, and defend the truth of Scripture was now greater than any other want.
I still love to act. I think God has given me a passion for telling stories that reflect His redemption, but my dreams are surrendered to the Lord's will. He has reshaped and expanded them to include more than what I pictured for myself: marriage, family, and ministry. Of course, there are moments when shame returns, and the enemy accuses me of being a failure. I mourn the unattained goals and express regret over wasted money, time, and energy. I worry over lost abilities and wonder if I will ever make it back to the stage. But then, the Holy Spirit moves me to lean on Jesus, for His saving work grants me rest from worldly striving and gives me an eternal future in the presence of the Father. I ask the Lord to use my passion for storytelling in whatever way He sees fit for His kingdom, and I pray for faithfulness to obey. Finally, I recall the Lord's provision. I see how He strung my theater pursuits together to lead me to His embrace and into maturity in Christ.
If you are dealing with shame from a broken dream, I want to leave you with an exhortation rooted in the gospel. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, can sympathize with your sorrow. He dealt with rejection, as His closest disciples abandoned Him to imprisonment. He encountered humiliation as He hung on the cross for a crime He did not commit. But, Jesus found satisfaction and joy still. The dreams of His heart contained the desire for God's people to be redeemed. He knew the Father would fulfill His dream because it was rooted in God's plan of salvation. For His faithfulness and obedience, Jesus overcame the shame of the cross. He rose from the dead, defeating sin. In exchange, Jesus ushered in a period of fruitfulness and honor before God. His Spirit redeemed us from our brokenness. He saved us from our sinful dreams and the shame of unattained ones. Jesus reconciled us to the Father, and now, we can truly flourish in our new identity.
When our earthly dreams do not manifest, we don't have to be discouraged. Sometimes, God allows our dreams to fall apart so that we can keep our eye on an eternal perspective. In our "failures," we cling to our identity in Christ, let go of our idols, and grow into Christlikeness. Exchange your broken dreams for the dream God accomplished in Jesus. Let us dream holy dreams; let us be open to different paths God has willed our lives. We can trust that God will realize His good and perfect will for us when Christ comes again.