It was a dream, but now it was shattered. Perhaps a new dream was to be discovered, and so we dug deep into what truly mattered.
It was happening again. The dream was being shattered. The marriage was over, the pregnancy test was negative, a redundancy letter handed out, and unemployment was on the horizon. There, in the most honest place of the soul, was a loss of spirit, drive, beauty.
A few years ago, an acquaintance opened up a cheery conversation with me by saying the words ‘Living the dream?’. After some paused consideration, I humorously said, ‘Sometimes, and then at other times, it feels like I am walking a nightmare.’
Live life honestly, and you know that dreams get shattered.
Shattered is an interesting word.
I think of a window and how a single little stone can hit the hard beautiful transparent surface and create a crack, then another crack, and then a thousand cracks spread from this impact point.
The glass loses its structural integrity; it bends and flexes and then crashes to the floor. A thousand million fragments of what was once oneness.
It’s gone, never to be seen again—a mess to be cleaned up somehow.
Grief, loss, mourning, anger, all appropriate and needed if we want to glean something good out of the shards and micro-glass dust.
Building your house of lower dreams
Jesus once told an interesting story of two house builders. Both had a dream home they were building. It was going to be their place of security, warmth, and investment. Their house expressed a personal signature about themselves. This was the house of Mary, and this was the house of Tom.
The big difference, though, was what the houses were built on. One house was built on sand, and the other was constructed on rock.
Jesus said it this way.
If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in, and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” Matthew 7:24-27
I have dreams for a better life than I have now.
A life where things go perfectly well. Great marriage, happy children, good income, fulfillment, acknowledgment, etc
I build my life around these dreams. I set goals, work hard, read, manipulate, control and try to make things work the way I want them to.
I am building my house of cards, and actually, to be honest, it’s ugly.
Yes, it’s functional, acceptable to others, normal, boring, but there’s truly nothing of supernatural glory.
Then a storm begins to build. They always do. Rains beat down, and floodwaters rise, and the strength of that which I have built my little house on begins to be exposed.
The sand grains of collected foolishness begin to lose any sense of energized connection.
Dissolving away, I am exposed as a naked Adam and Eve. I try to cover up my vitals. Hands rush to hide.
Dreams shattered can leave us feeling shamed and exposed.
‘I was such a fool ever to trust again.’
‘Why did I ever do that?’
In Larry Crabb’s book Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy, he writes this.
‘Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life. And that begins a revolution in our lives.’ Larry Crabb
You’re going to have dreams shattered. Your hopes will be hulled out.
Disappointment has unknown scheduled an appointment with you.
The ‘flower-strewn pathway’ has thorny roses, stinging wasps, invasive weeds, and moss slippery paving stones.
What I want more of
I was in a good conversation the other day. It was rich with words and deep connection. We shared life.
The person I was listening to was sharing something of her life and struggles. She wanted to be heard. Something within her needed to be known and explored.
A few days later, she opened up even more and told me about her life as a child in a poor rural community. She was rich in experiences and how struggle had shaped her identity.
She had her share of shattered lesser dreams but now was growing in deeper dreams.
I have dreams of having deeper, richer conversations with people I care about. That’s a higher dream. One that excites me.
Beware of the dream merchant.
A dream merchant has probably conned you. I have been. They sell you a dream.
Here’s a definition I found.
A person, [such] as a moviemaker or advertiser, who panders to or seeks to develop the public’s craving for luxury, romance, or escapism.
I think that’s a bit too narrow, but it captures something of the essence of these spin merchants.
Essentially a dream merchant sells you a dream. It’s the promise of a better life if you do this or that. It’s the ‘promise in the year of election’ (U2 – Desire)
In the church world, it can be
- a preacher passing out prosperity pills
- healing hype and whipped up worship
- studying the Bible for more knowledge but little knowing
- told that attendance is next to godliness
- formulas for a better marriage, family life, business
It’s building up a personal theology of believing God’s blessing (however you and the dream merchant define it) is just around the corner if you just do this and that. No faith, no mystery, just mechanics.
I taste heaven when I am in rich conversation with at least one other.
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. C.S. Lewis
Have you placed a second thing in a first place?
I’m currently creating a short course called ‘Dig yourself out of the hole.
Turning the Page attracts a lot of traffic from people in desperate situations.
They come looking for help related to the dark holes of depression. They’re suicidal. They come, read a few pages, then they’re gone. I hope and pray that something from the website helps them.
But I want to do more. I have so much more to share and help that I believe can help them out of their hole.
There is a dream merchant within me that fills me with dreams of helping thousands of people, making lots of money out of this ‘Pay what you want’ course, and changing the world!
That’s a second thing that my dream merchant wants to make a first thing. It’s a dream that’s lining up to be shattered.
Then there is another dream merchant, a poor but wise one (Ecclesiastes 9:13-16), that says do it for one and leave everything else up to God.
If my listening intent is on the dream merchant selling me fame and glory, I will lose focus on the wisdom offered through the discernment of the poor but wise dream merchant.
Ten lepers got healed by Jesus Luke 17:11-19, and only one connected to a greater story. The others had their lesser dreams fulfilled, one taped into something greater.
Some dreams need to be shattered, and I pray that God will smash any dreams that are not connected to God’s greater good for me.
Post shattered dreams
You’ve had dreams shattered. Things haven’t worked out the way you planned or hoped for.
How did you respond after the dream shattered into a million fragments?
Anger? Disappointment? Loss of trust in yourself, others, God?
Perhaps a ‘shaking of the fist’ at God?
Maybe a ‘dust yourself off’ attitude and then throwing yourself back into the fight.
Can I suggest that you ask yourself some deeply reflective questions?
- What is truly a ‘first thing’ for you?
- What are the ‘second things’?
- What were the deepest desires hidden under the dream that you held so dear?
- Who are the dream merchants you have been listening to?
- What dreams do you need to quietly relinquish a tight grasp of?
- What might come back to you if you simply let the ‘second things’ go and fly free?
- What is a dream that can only be received via some sort of supernatural God intervention?
Some dreams need to shatter to allow other dreams to come into view.
Quotes to consider
- Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb
- The greatest blessing is no longer the blessing of a good life. It never was. It is now the blessing of an encounter with God. It always has been. Larry Crabb Shattered Dreams
- Our shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. Pain is a tragedy. But it’s never only a tragedy. For the Christian, it’s always a necessary mile on the long journey to joy. Larry Crabb Shattered Dreams
Questions to consider
- What dreams have been shattered for you?
- What did you learn from those experiences?
- How would you sit and support someone going through a shattered dream experience?