Are there unfulfilled dreams inside you? Did you picture your life very different from your current one? Do you ever wonder why you possess certain skills and talents that seem to go unused and unappreciated? I felt that way for years.
From earliest childhood, I forced my younger brothers to be “students” in my pretend school, with me as teacher. Through my school years and college, I dreamed of that only, to be a teacher. My instructors and professors assured me I possessed the perfect skill set and personality to be an educator. Score!
After graduating college, I married my husband, and we moved to the Chicago area for graduate school. I thought that in a large metropolitan area, I’d choose my school system. Hah! While I lived in the college bubble, the teaching world changed and a tsunami wave of college students with teaching degrees hit the job market.
Many school systems shifted to hiring primarily from their substitute teacher pools. I couldn’t even get on a substitute teacher list as they were so overcrowded at that time. Instead, I took a job as a music therapist and figured I’d begin my teaching career when we moved to our first ministry position.
I started my career as a high school teacher 20 years later and I only landed my initial job because I added an English degree to my portfolio and, more importantly, the teacher I replaced left in the middle of the year due to a nervous breakdown.
During those twenty years I worked other careers, I continued to dream of teaching. Many times, I thought I’d never see that vision come to pass. I questioned the skills, passion and calling God placed in me in the hard light of many closed doors.
It’s easy to lose faith in something we felt so sure God placed in our hearts when its fulfillment is deferred. God’s waiting room can be a place where we allow our dreams to die instead of entrusting them to His perfect timing. A vision delayed often reflects God’s desire to prepare our character and skills for a specific assignment. He also needs to prepare a situation and the people within it, to receive us.
Joseph’s promotion from boy dreamer to Egypt’s second in command wound its way through 14 years of slavery and prison. (Genesis 37-50) David’s waiting period between his teenaged anointing and throne, we approximate to be fifteen years. (I Samuel 16- 2 Samuel 10)
Far eclipsing Joseph and David, Bible historians estimate Noah worked on the Ark for about 100 years. One of the highest callings ever placed on a life endured a century of mockery and derision from the inhabitants of a land where flooding rains never existed before. Matthew 24:38-39 indicate the world’s inhabitants continued to eat, drink and be merry until the moment Noah entered the ark.
Scriptures recount Joseph’s and David’s discouragements during their waiting times. Moses’ leadership calling became encrusted over with desert dust. In Acts 7 Stephen recounts that when Moses was 40 and chose to step away from privileged palace life he was “powerful in speech and action,” and thought that “his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them.” 40 years later, God miraculously inflames a desert bush to call 80-year-old Moses up for front line duty. Our hero’s response is to protest that he is no one to whom Pharaoh or Israel will listen, and that he’s a lousy speaker. What happened? I think Moses may not have understood that his 40 years of obscurity as a priest in the Midian desert served only as preparation for his ultimate destiny, not the destiny itself. No judgements here because I’ve done the same exact thing with some of my dreams.
How do we hold on to our faith tenaciously when it comes to deferred dreams? From man’s beginning, Satan continues to insinuate that humans can’t hear well from God. Doubting the relationship between Shepherd and sheep can be one of the first casualties in God’s waiting rooms. Bitterness and despair can erupt when others are promoted, and we continue to be overlooked. Sometimes, like Moses, we just assume a calling never belonged to us in the first place.
Here’s a few ideas to help keep us in a state of readiness so that when He calls us up we are prepared for action.
- Recognize waiting periods as your school of preparation and character development.
God kept Christ himself hidden away in a nothing little town for 30 years. During that time, Jesus became the exceptional human revealed in the Gospels. God knows the demands that our destinies will place on our character and resources. We don’t need any more public failures in the body of Christ where everyone discovers that a character couldn’t keep up with a calling.
- Understand that God works to prepare situations and people to receive you.
God brought Jacob’s family and the entire nation of Egypt to places of desperation to enable them to receive Joseph’s leadership gladly. I like to operate where I am celebrated, not tolerated, don’t you? Give God time to create that environment for you.
- Our current state is our proving ground for our coming promotion.
Joseph came to Pharaoh’s attention because he acted with kindness and wisdom in prison. David fought many valiant battles and treated crazy King Saul with respect, which earned him the admiration of his people before he became their king. We might feel shelved, overlooked and left behind but God is watching carefully to see how we treat the people he sends our way and how we conduct ourselves outside of our dream lives. Be excruciatingly faithful with whatever He gives you to do right now. Obey quickly when He gives direction. God wants to be sure we won’t act like we’re too big for our britches when he does promote us.
- Enjoy the life God gives you today.
You may be in a job, relationship, church, neighborhood or country that is far outside your dreams. Some places are hard and unwelcoming like Moses’ desert. Faith enables us to believe that our dreams are still in God’s hands for safe keeping. All of God’s promises for grace, peace, joy and purpose are for us today.
During the month of March, we’ll develop some ideas about thriving in hard places because, frankly, that’s where a lot of life is lived. See you then!