Spiritual Formation

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

-Langston Hughes, 1951

Over time, we’ve had a lot of dreams fade.  Life’s details presented us with the reality that certain longings would lead us to destruction, and that another path was wiser.  As we’ve grown through such times, we’re not necessarily discouraged, just disappointed.  It’s happened enough times in our life that we instinctively know we will still be ok.  Plenty of dreams remain alive – just not ‘the-big-one-we-always-hoped-and-planned-for’.  We have plenty of small dreams:  for our children, our students, our families, our friends, our marriage, ourselves, our careers.  It’s the big dreams that feel more elusive: living deeply with others, loving enemies, serving and knowing people in different situations than us.

My six-year-old daughter summed it up well one night when she told me, “You know how the poor live, but you don’t know what they look like.  What do they look like, Mama?”

Nothing like a kid to shoot an arrow straight to the heart.

As much as I hate the truth of it, the reality is that I’ve lived a life quite isolated from those different than us.  I know a great deal about ‘them’, but I don’t know them.  I’ve lived with an impression that once we arrive at the ‘big dream’, that we’d be able to do those things more easily.  But love the alcoholic neighbor with the rebellious kids?  Not so much.

Maybe it’s time to live in the reailty of the day rather than wait for the realization of the dream.

And you?  What do you do with your deferred dreams?

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6 thoughts on “What happens to a dream deferred?”

  1. When we are young, we all believe the world is a happy and nice place and if it’s not so, it will be like that later on. We have dreams and are idealistic. But then we get busy with our own lifes, our own problems and the rest doesn’t seem to matter that much. It’s a real pity.

    Luckily, we get reminded once and a while reminded on the fact that we have real reasons to feel lucky and happy.

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  2. This one really touched me… as we’re struggling with deferred dreams right now. With three kids and a career and a wife who is staying home now.. things are tight and life is busy and in those quiet times I think about the dreams. I dreamt big when I was younger. The poor were going have a future, the downtrodden would be brought up… lives would be changed, impact would be felt. Shreemati and I actually drawn to eachother because each of us had big dreams.

    We’re reconnecting right now on these dreams. I think most people get it wrong. Dreams can’t wait. You have to make it happen. By God’s grace (and yes you and I have the same God), we will make our dreams come true, not just for us but for our kids, because i want them to know that you need to dream big and big dreams do come true!

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    1. Would love to hear more about how you reconnect with your dreams… you’re so right that dreams can’t wait, but sometimes they do change. I find it hard when a dream dies, but experience God’s grace even in this.

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  3. Wow. Beautiful … And I love that girl of yours already … What insight. I’d love to know more about those deferred dreams, actually.

    Think you should think about a visit to Vancouver. I would love to linger over a table with you and talk about dreams, a world without borders and moving mountains.

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    1. Ha! This is very funny b/c I am actually coming to Vancouver in early June and have been mulling over asking you to meet for coffee. Guess you beat me to it! I’d love to connect with you face to face 🙂

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      1. Ha! That IS funny! Business or pleasure? Will you be bringing the family? Let me know what you’ll be up to, then we can make plans accordingly. I’d love to hang out … I love when cyberworld gets skin on. // I’m excited!

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