Most of the dreams that carried me forward and burned brightly in young adulthood lost their luster years ago.
My twenty-something self would be mortified at the woman I’ve become.
I can imagine her indignant voice, hand on hip, eyes wide:
“What? No gym membership?”
“How many kids did you say you have?”
“What is this shipwreck you’ve made of our resume?”
But then, for most of us, there is a dream or two that sticks around, still cherished and yet unfulfilled. It reminds us of its presence with a subtle pressure, like a pebble in the shoe.
Dreams with a long shelf life can light a spark in middle age, or . . . they can become the seedbed for bitterness and regret. Sarah (Old Testament wife of Abraham and matriarch of the Hebrews 11 “faith chapter”) knew well the taste of disappointment and frustrated dreams. Over and over she heard about The Promise, a major topic of Abraham’s heart-to-heart talks with God:
“The Father of a Great Nation,” God had promised.
“Children as innumerable as the stars in the sky,”
God had spoken, and Sarah had worked hard to believe.
“If Abraham’s the father, that makes me the mother. Doesn’t it? Couldn’t we get started with just one . . .?”
As the years wore down Sarah’s hope and her joints, she may have found remedies to ease arthritis, but nothing took the edge off yearning.
Then one day when Sarah was 90 years old, the promise came once again. Picture an arid landscape. Abraham, now a very old man, is resting in the doorway of his tent to escape the heat of the day. Three men approach, and the gracious old gent hops up to show lavish hospitality, Middle-Eastern style. (Genesis 18:1-16)
Is it possible that Abraham and Sarah recognized one of their visitors as the angel of the Lord? This pre-incarnate embodiment of God the Son carried news that made Sarah’s heart skip a beat as she listened through the tent wall:
“Abraham, when I see you again, your wife, Sarah, will have a son.”
Twenty-four years had passed since this promise was first spoken out loud, and for the first time, Sarah was hearing that her own DNA was also important to its fulfillment. And suddenly there was a time frame on the table! This was all too much for her heart to absorb, and the text goes on to record Sarah’s response there, in the privacy of her tent:
Quietly, she snorted her disbelief in a laugh that carried an embedded sneer. Bitterness had been plowed underground as she wondered if, maybe, she had misunderstood God’s intentions. Gradually, her hope had faded as the years had passed: empty womb, empty arms, empty promise.
And may I ask, tenderly:
How long have you been waiting for your dream to materialize?
While others have moved forward into solid futures that look crazily like the one you’ve imagined, you feel as if, somehow, you’ve been left standing still.
Tired, faith stretched thin, the idea that anything good could happen, that blessing could wash up on your personal shore . . .? Pfffff . . . Snort! Do you feel a cynical chuckle coming on?
Time bound and short-sighted, we need a sinewy faith to stave off bitterness when hope has been bleeding out for years.
Together, let’s join Sarah in pressing an ear against the tent wall to hear God’s words of choosing and commission.
Your DNA is needed in this family of God. Press hard against the Tent Wall of Scripture and hear God’s voice today saying that His ultimate plan is for fruitfulness and joy. Soak in the record of prophecy fulfilled, the promises kept, the hand of God at work in stunning intervention, and then read in Psalm 126 about the laughter of dreams fulfilled that follows the tears of sowing seed and long waiting.
Can we trust the God who filled Sarah’s empty womb to fill our empty hearts? He longs to come to your tent, to lock eyes, and to share a meal with you. Listen carefully, and let the smile spread slowly over your incredulous face, for the truth is that He brings good news — and it’s for you.
This post was first shared at God-sized Dreams
In just a couple of weeks, we will begin what I hope will be a leisurely and joyful read of Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. The humble bachelor barber of Port William, Kentucky is surrounded by a cast of characters that weave in and out of his story, sharing their wisdom in their turn. In light of the tragic mayhem of recent days, these words from farmer Athey Keith frame simple truth: “It might prove out to be that if we can’t live together we can’t live atall. Did you ever think about that?”
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