Yesterday I was thinking about life being full of dead ends, detours, and roundabouts. We all have expectations for our lives. We dream of what our family will look like, what career we have, what kind of house we live in, when we expect to retire, and so many other things. How many of us, when we were children or young adults, had a dream along with a time table, and an expectation of how the dream will be played out? My kids have wanted to be firemen, pilots, veterinarians, skating pros, business lawyers, car designers, and a host of other things. The problem is that much of the time the dreams are thwarted, altered, or delayed.
I think the dead ends are the most difficult. I have friends who's dreams have died, sometimes because of things out of their control. I'm thinking of some people I know who had a dream of a certain career, but just couldn't pass one of the required classes no matter how much they studied. Or a neighbor who planned to travel with her husband when they retired, only for him to die of a heart attack before they could fulfill that dream. Or one friend who planned to live with his spouse for the rest of his life, but she ran off with someone else. Or some I know who had planned to retire comfortably, but the combination of the housing bust and job loss is making that dream seem impossible. Or a few friends who want a large biological family, yet their bodies just aren't cooperating. These things can be dead ends, and grief is a normal response.
The detours in life are a mixed bag. I know people struggling with infertility who have adopted. Others have changed careers when the first one didn't work out. People move. People form new relationships. People adjust and change their dreams. There is grieving that needs to be done for the old dream, but eventually we need to accept the changes and find joy and peace in the "new life." I used to be quite comfortable when we lived in Oregon. We had a good church, nice house, and good schools for the kids. I had family and friends nearby. When we were called to California, I had to give up a lot of the things I most enjoyed. I needed to grieve for those losses, but eventually needed find joy, peace, and purpose in my life here. Before we adopted our two kids, I had some dreams and expectations of how that life would be. Many of those dreams have changed because of the realities of parenting kids with FASD and trauma backgrounds.
Roundabouts are those crazy intersections which help cars smoothly get from one place to the other in a circle. However, those things are confusing to me. Sometimes I have entered a roundabout only to be stuck in the wrong lane and have had to go around the circle a couple of times before I could get to the place I needed to be. I was moving, yet I wasn't getting anywhere. Life is full of these kind of experiences. Sometimes you get to where you want to go quickly, and other times you have to wait, even while keeping busy with other things. That's actually where I feel I'm at right now. I have some dreams for my life that don't seem to be coming to fruition very quickly. I'm keeping busy. I'm fruitful in some other parts of my life. But the problem, as far as I can figure out, is that I don't feel like I'm in the right lane and so I keep going round and round hoping the traffic will spit me out! I don't really know how to get from point A to point B. I don't know what specific steps I need to take now to get to where God wants me to be tomorrow. I'm kind of feel like the Israelites wandering around in the desert just a stones throw from the Promised Land. I'm waiting.
Dreams and high expectations are good, and drive us to excel. Some of those dreams are God given. Some fit so well with the way we are made, it would be a shame to not aim high. What if some of our greatest artists, musicians, scientists, and humanitarians gave up because the way to their goal was difficult or long? I want to be as fruitful with the gifts God has given me as possible. I don't want to waste my life. But on the other hand, sometimes the detours aren't really detours, but the real path. And many times the delays and waiting times are the times we are best developed and changed to do the thing we were made to do. Realizing our dreams to quickly or easily can be even more hindering and even downright dangerous. I'm thinking of so many of our entertainers whose lives fell apart because riches and fame came too quickly. So I need to get through my head that waiting isn't all bad.
I guess the best thing for me to do is to stick close to God, checking in with him for a vision for my life and for each step along the way. I need to be patient (a very hard thing for me), and flexible. I need to do what I know I should do and obey God in the things that I do know. But most of all, I need to enjoy the ride. Because, like our pastor said recently, "Following God can be a lot of fun!"