It’s Time for a New Dream
How many times have you heard the phrase, “Follow your dreams!” This is common advice given to young people who are trying to make decisions about what career path to follow or what college to attend. We want young people to pursue things that will give them real purpose, meaning, and even joy. We don’t want them to be working a job they don’t love. So, we encourage them to follow their dreams!
But what happens when dreams don’t come true? What happens when you’ve done all you can and things don’t pan out the way you wanted? In John Powell’s book, A Reason to Live! A Reason to Die!, he says that once you’ve passed age 30, you spend your life coming to grips with the reality that your dreams didn’t happen. You aren’t who you thought you’d be. Your life isn’t what you expected it to be. At least not in the fullest sense.
This loss of “the dream” is known as intrapsychic loss. Kenneth R. Mitchell and Herbert Anderson define intrapsychic loss in their book, All Our Losses, All Our Griefs, as “the experience of losing an emotionally important image of oneself, losing the possibilities of ‘what might have been,’ abandonment of plans for a particular future, the dying of a dream.”
Have you watched any dreams in your life die? Have any of your plans for this season of your life not worked out? If so, you’ve experienced intrapsychic loss.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites often felt the sting of intrapsychic loss. As slaves in Egypt, they had dreams of what freedom would be like. They had been in slavery so long that they didn’t know anything else, but that didn’t stop their imagination from running wild. So, you could imagine the kind of joy they felt when Moses finally told them it was time to leave Egypt and head to the promised land. At the bare minimum, they expected life to be better in freedom than it was in slavery. Yet, within six short weeks, their dreams were shattered. They found themselves in the wilderness with no food or water. With each step forward sweat dripped from their brow, their backs hurt from all they were carrying, and their shin splits kept getting worse. It got so bad that all they wanted was to be back in Egypt. They thought, they may have been slaves, but at least they had food to eat.
Israel’s dream of freedom was unfulfilled. They expected more but found themselves sorely disappointed. Coping with such loss can be challenging. It’s easy to turn to grumbling and that’s just what the Israelites did.
How do you respond when your dreams go unfulfilled? How do you cope when life is not what you expected it to be? Have you turned to grumbling like the Israelites? Or have you found healthy ways to respond to your disappointment?
In response to the Israelite’s grumbling, God did not respond in anger, but instead, he responded in mercy and grace. He heard their complaints and didn’t demand that they change. God showered down manna from heaven. The people had come to the point where they realized they couldn’t make their dreams come true in their own strength. And it was in that moment, that their God showed himself faithful. God provided a new dream in the absence of the old dream; a dream that was beyond their wildest imagination.
It might be time for you to look for a new dream too. Unexpected life changes, be them from the covid-19 pandemic, onset of dementia or other health changes can completely change the way you expected your life to be like. As you recognize a dream or expectation will be unfulfilled, it’s important to take time to grieve the loss. Even sharing grief with a friend or writing it down can bring you a long way in the grieving process. Then, when you feel ready, begin to imagine new dreams. Within the bounds of your current life situation, what expectations can you have for your future? What are things you can look forward to? What daily activity can you begin? Who are the connections you will be able to focus your time and energy on in lieu of the ones you may not be able to engage right now?
Remember, be gracious to yourself. Your loss and grief are real. But over time, your new expectations might bring you more satisfaction than you anticipate. They might be just the manna from heaven you need right now.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson
 To read the full story check out Exodus 16.