Monday, March 20, 2017
In the Hallway: Mourning Dead Dreams
The last two years have been difficult and wonderful at the same time. One of my life's longest-held dreams was fulfilled when we brought our precious son home from China. At the same time, I've seen some of my most defining dreams pass by. Unless something strange and miraculous happens, at least one of my dreams is out of reach and quite possibly dead.
I grew up believing that there would come a point when I would find my "niche", and that once I did, the idiosyncrasies in the way God designed me would make sense. I thought that I had found that niche when I had the opportunity to speak to groups of women and teach the Word. I felt more like myself when I was teaching than I felt any other time. I felt more comfortable in my skin and in my personality than I felt at any other time. I came to believe that God would open doors and allow me to teach more often, so I could be more of myself more of the time.
But now I sit in the hallway, surrounded by closed doors on every side. Not only are there no speaking opportunities, there's no potential for speaking opportunities. The part of me that came alive when teaching has atrophied and weakened. It's a part of me that may very well be on its death bed, and I thought that it was the best of me.
It may be a matter of timing or phase of life, or it may be my permanent reality. There simply aren't many speaking opportunities for complementarian women (women who believe in gender roles within the family and church, specifically that a woman is not called by God to pastor His church). It requires a lot of help from others who are more experienced and well-connected, and they really have to see a spark and then choose to fan that flame.
Once I reached out to a more mature woman in our association with a piece that I had written and poured my soul into, and her only response was "I noticed a few grammatical errors. I can help you with that if you'd like." The fact of the matter is that I like starting sentences with conjunctions because it makes writing feel more like a natural conversation, but that's simply a difference in style, I suppose. Others have been much more encouraging, but none have seen a flicker and felt the call to fan it into flame, which is God's territory, not mine.
My style is quite different from typical women speakers (especially those of the complementarian variety). My theology is very similar to the theology of many other women speakers, but it's my personal style that isn't normal. It's just one of those idiosyncrasies that I believed would make sense once I found my place in God's Kingdom.
But that sweet dream has turned into a bitter emptiness.
So I'm sitting in this closed-off hallway, trying to figure out where to go from here. I'm exploring a completely different path through classes in web development, graphic design, and digital marketing. I believe that these skills are an excellent fit for my personality, and a great way to benefit the Kingdom while providing for my family.
But being a web designer and marketing expert doesn't justify God's design, which is what I really want. I want to know why God didn't make me happy to be a nurse. I mean, it's a hugely important job with good insurance and a variety of scheduling options, but that's just not how He made me, I want to know why I would rather study an obscure passage from a minor prophet within a historical context than an old stand-by like Proverbs 31. I want to know why God made me to like football far more than cooking or decorating. I want to know why I speak the way I do, think the way I do, and do the way I do. I want to know what God is up to while I'm sitting in this dark, old hallway.
But here in this hallway, God bends near and whispers, "I don't have you in this hallway for you to know. I have you here so you can trust."
He gently reminds me that His own Son had a dream that wouldn't come true in His lifetime.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39
Jesus longed to take His people into His arms. He longed to make them great among the nations. He longed to bring them blessing and abundance, but His dream wasn't going to happen in His lifetime, but in His death. His death would make a way to build a new Jerusalem from the destruction of its predecessor. His death would pay for the sins committed by those who steadfastly kept their trust in Him, and His death would establish a new nation and a new family that would bring Him the glory that was refused Him by those in Jerusalem who would sentence Him to death by crucifixion.
So here, in this hallway, I mourn for the Hannah that I thought and hoped and prayed that I would be. I mourn for the missed opportunities and closed doors. I mourn for the lost hope and painful emptiness. I mourn, trusting that this mourning is but temporary. This ignorance is short-lived. There will come a day very soon when I will see Him, and I will know why He made me precisely the way that He did, and when I do, I'm pretty sure that I won't care about that at all.
Because in that moment, I'll see Him face to face, my priorities will be set right, and I will know exactly what it means to be justified. I will finally be able to love the way that I was intended to love without fear or self-concern. I will finally be able to serve with all of my abilities without trying to prove a thing to myself or anyone else.
When I finally know what I want to know, I'm confident that will be the moment when I know that trusting has always been better than knowing.