Monday, September 8, 2014

When Dreams Aren't Really Broken

"Dream big!" "Do something great for God!" 

So many Christian messages -- on the radio, at inspirational conferences, even in Catholic circles -- spin God's will as whatever fulfills our greatest desires. But where does that leave us when the life God has given seems to veer steadily away from our heart's desires? 

I easily booked 10,000 hours of dance while growing up. There was something so satisfying about joining a company after college. It felt like the first real risk I'd ever taken, the first time I'd admitted to having a dream, and here I was, living it.

When I left three years later -- newly married, pregnant, and looking for a job with health insurance -- it felt like selling out. I've tried to return to the dancing and teaching world several times, and something always happens to keep me away: sick kids, babysitter falls through, another pregnancy... 

I spent many years mistaking financial stability and health insurance as signs of Christian dream success, and many years thinking the high of shining in a spotlight was God's sign of favor in my life. 

When we got pregnant 18 months sooner than planned, I dropped out of grad school (where I'd been earning teaching credentials to stabilize my dance work) to pursue a "real job." I still wonder if these were the right choices at the time, though they seemed, the only choice. I still wonder if I'll ever return to something that was such a large part of my life for so long. 

For women, there's neverending talk about having it all: You can still do it all with a baby! A baby won't take away your dreams! It's a common pro-life message for those fearful of pregnancy, fearful of how this new small life might affect the life a mother's worked so hard to build.

Or sometimes, we emphasize how motherhood replaces our former ambitions with better dreams and a better life: The fulfillment of life as a mother will make you forget about every other dream you had! 

There's, of course, truth to all of it. In my experience, a child is the most marvelous, phenomenal, life-changing gift I have ever received. 

And yet, to diminish a mother's sacrifice in choosing the life of her child over the life that she's known -- to dismiss this choice as necessary, easy, or painless -- also, inadvertently, diminishes her love. A mother's love is the deepest understanding of love for many humans, not because it's necessary or easy or painless, but precisely, because it is not. 

It's easy to feel that the busy seasons of life are more important, or that seasons in the spotlight are more esteemed, or that a season on bed rest is just a big waste of time. (My current full-time job is hospital bed rest.) 

But I'm seeing that life is less a Disney movie and more a miniseries, and what I see as drifting from the storyline might just be a new episode. 

And the Author of all of this is pulling together our stories into something bigger and greater than we could ever imagine or write for ourselves. 

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