A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes....."

There’s something in particular I have dreamt of receiving for the past couple of years. This dream came about after a series of moments in which I realized there was something I had never experienced and desperately longed to. I also realized that this particular something I strongly desired was a good thing, one I believed that God would want me to have when I was ready for it. And because I have been through the excruciating process of experiencing a few dreams twist and morph and then die, but coming out of that pain with a new and overwhelming feeling of being intensely loved and protected by God, I knew that I could trust Him with this good particular dream. He would either give it to me in His perfect way and timing or He wouldn’t. And if He wouldn’t, He must have a perfect reason for it, so I could just rest in knowing He has good plans for my life.

I remember my new-Christian days. I remember longing to soak in the Bible and racing home from work so I could do so. I remember my enthusiasm for all things God and my desiring to tell everyone about what I was experiencing. I also remember having the ingrained assumption that He would shower me with happy blessings and be supportive of everything I wanted.

I distinctly remember one day sitting and reading Psalm 37:4, one of the warmest, fuzziest-feeling verses in all of scripture: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”. I remember reading that and coming alive with misguided hope, assuming this meant He was going to grant me everything I was dreaming of having. In reality, this is absolutely correct.

But not in the ways we nearly always assume.

So often when dreams take root inside of us, our hearts become like delicate pieces of china, the dreams like wobbly shelves, tasked with bearing the pressure of hope and expectation we so easily thrust onto the dream itself to fulfill our quest for wholeness and meaning. The greater the longing, the more crushing it is when the shelf gives way – when the dream collapses – and the heart is broken into infinite pieces. We don’t realize that the shelf was never designed to hold everything that we placed on it.

As I soaked in Psalm 37:4, I began telling God all the things I wanted, and I continued to do so for many years. Some I received and still have today, though they don’t resemble what I imagined they would. Some seemed to have great possibility but just never came to fruition, some never felt like they ever got started, and a few......well......yes, God gave them to me. But because of their nature and the warped way I internalized their role in my life, I never could truly enjoy them. My well-being was wrapped around steadfastly preserving their place and guarding them fiercely from any intrusion or change. It hurt beyond measure when they fell under the weight they were bearing, and I felt almost swallowed whole by the emptiness felt because of the emotional death I experienced when the dreams collapsed. In each case, I had made the dream my lifeline to wholeness and didn’t know how to breathe without them. In each case, I now know, it was God’s unfailing mercy that allowed them to fall, and His unfailing love that guided me into the periods of emptiness I felt without them.

The shelf giving way is never an act of cruelty, though it may be cloaked in indescribable pain. It is in the broken pieces scattered across the cold, unyielding ground of life where true desire is revealed and faith cultivated. Sometimes the process hurts so much we swear we’ll never hope again for anything, tidily sweeping the pieces up, dumping them in the trash, and existing in a black-and-white, dreamless reality from thence on. Sometimes we delude ourselves into believing none of this is as bad as it seems and we simply go on to the next thing without tending to the broken mess. Yet it still lies there in sharp, haphazard shards, interfering with whatever the next thing is and the next thing after that, a destructive layer never repaired and never made new. Sometimes, though, we just sit and wail among the pieces, fully taking in the devastation, throwing all of our pain and bewilderment in the only place there could possibly be any hope: the notion that Someone must have seen the shelf starting to break away. Someone must’ve known this was coming. And Someone didn’t stop it. And if we dare, we wrestle with the Someone’s authority and sentiment towards us, intrinsically trusting that the Someone can handle our agony-driven questioning. In time, if we dare further, we invite the Someone to show us how any of this could possibly be used for good. And just maybe, we will continue to press on in faith that somehow, the Someone who didn’t stop this dream from collapsing is also the same Someone who claims to love us and give us the desires of our hearts.

It is among the most vulnerable of experiences to clumsily hand over our dreams to God in complete abandonment. They may rightfully carry extraordinary purpose and affection for us, and to proactively transfer ownership of our dreams and all the longing that’s wrapped up in them to God can be nothing short of terrifying, if the dream means that much to us. But the path of true discipleship requires nothing less; in fact, not only are we called to hand them over, but we are called to hand them over with full awareness that we may experience their destruction firsthand, and still believe that God loves us and that He is good. Perhaps there is nothing harder.

God has shown me that when He promises to give me the desires of my heart, His plan is to, in fact, give me the desires of my heart. What this is entails is a lifetime filled with realizing, stripping away, and releasing, as we allow Him to show us the messy, misguided state of our hearts, give Him the authority to tear down what we’ve clung to as idols, and take away good things in order to make room for the Best Thing. In this pain-filled, never-ending process, we see the true desire of our hearts is Him, and He promises this gift to those who would receive.

A few days ago, God gave me this good particular thing I’d been dreaming of receiving. It was wonderful and euphoric and amazing, and it brought me to my knees in awe and worship and thanksgiving, and it is something I will savor now and reflect on my whole life when the storms come and I wonder where He is and I need some evidence to cling to that He was ever there in the first place. But you know what? As precious as this good gift was and is, it didn’t satisfy; the worship of God and His felt presence through receiving this dream is the true gift, and because of it my being shines, as did Moses’ face when experiencing God on the mountain.

Deep inside, I continue to feel the longing for other dreams and blessings to be received and actualized, and even the formation of new ones, not yet revealed to me. They are good and they are there for a reason, and hidden underneath all the layers of creative detail that make up the rich, purpose-filled exterior of these dreams lies the truth that they all point back to the singular human longing to be reconciled to and loved by his/her creator. Deeper still, I realize that this is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. The moment I begin yearning for something more than to be held in the presence and love of God is the first moment I step away from the abundant life He promises. For this is a shelf that will never give way.

*I am indebted to Dr. Larry Crabb for his exploration and insight into good versus Best.