Living Beyond Our Broken Dreams

When I titled my last blog post “Are You Living Your Dream?” I intended the question as a personal writing and reflection prompt. To my surprise I received an email that answered a flat out “no, but I’m glad you are so blessed.”

I know I’ve been blessed in many ways—as a child, I dreamed of becoming a writer “some day,” and by God’s grace that dream came true for me. But let me be clear that while I’m grateful to be living that dream, I also know what it’s like to live with disappointing, delayed, and broken dreams.

Last year when my husband was in the hospital for three weeks with complications related to his cancer, his doctors expected him to recover and retun home. My husband looked forward to resuming his academic work, to getting back to his hockey pool with friends, to being home with me—as he put it—“forever or for as long as possible.” You might say these were his dreams, and I dreamed them along with him.

But then came the sudden downturn, the unexpected critical event that broke our dreams. My husband did not recover and return home from the hospital. He did not resume his academic work, or finish his hockey pool with friends, or come home to be with me. Today I still live with those broken dreams.

As a seminary student, my husband had dreamed of teaching Greek and New Testament “some day,” and by God’s grace, that dream came true for him too. But after 25 years of effective teaching ministry, his position was abruptly terminated “for financial reasons” he was told. Yet he was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to say only that he was “retiring early.” He refused.

After some negotiation, the college finally agreed to appoint my husband as professor emeritus and give him some office space. Many saw the announcement as well-deserved honour, but to my husband, having to negotiate a settlement felt more like dishonour. The college was no longer the place of his dreams. The dreams he once had of Christian community, integrity, and mutual respect were broken. He felt the brokenness so keenly, and I grieved along with him.

Over time he found a new way forward as he was invited to teach seminary and graduate students elsewhere. He found new community where he was respected and valued. At the time of his death, he was also still officially professor emeritus at the college. The college public relations team issued a press release with a good picture of him; the college librarian put together a memorial display of his published books; faculty, staff, and former students responded with kind words and good memories; but strangely no one from the board or administration contacted me with condolences on behalf of the college. Instead, my husband’s photo and name as professor emeritus were simply removed from the college website.

So yes, I’ve been able to live my childhood dream of becoming a writer, and for many years my husband was able to live his dream of teaching too. But we have also been well acquainted with disillusionment, with disappointing, delayed, and broken dreams. I’m not naming names or blaming anyone in particular here. I’ve quite likely been part of someone else’s broken dreams too. And so quite likely have you. We all fall short. That’s part of being human: dreaming and breaking dreams and living with the broken pieces.

But broken dreams are not the end of the story for any of us.

By faith I believe that God binds up the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). God redeems the brokenness of this world (Isaiah 61:1-4) and makes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  That’s part of the mystery and power of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. In Jesus Christ and by the Spirit, God brings new life!

By God’s grace I believe we can find new life even beyond our broken dreams. I’m praying in that direction for you today. I’m praying that for myself. May the God who numbers the stars and names them (Psalm 147:4) look on us with compassion.  May God rebuild the broken ruins of our lives (Isaiah 61:1-4). May we dream new dreams, and live into hope one day and one moment at a time.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Writing/Reflection Prompt: What broken dreams are you living with? What would it look like for you to live beyond those broken dreams?


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10 thoughts on “Living Beyond Our Broken Dreams

  1. Thank you for sharing about your broken dreams and disappointments, April. We all carry them and our vulnerability and openness will touch the lives of many.

  2. I appreciate your comment, Elfrieda. Yes, we all carry disappointments and broken dreams, and sharing them with people who know how to listen well can help make them easier to bear. That’s one reason my husband refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement–he knew that he needed to be able to speak honestly with people he trusted and not be cut off from that kind of supportive community.

  3. Very touching. How hard to deal with the major disruptions of dreams you and your husband had for your life together. You have ministered to many of us. This spoke to my heart and some physical issues my mate is going through right now, which affect me too, of course. Thanks for your openness and God bless and hold us all!

  4. Thank you for your words, April, and for your reminder that broken dreams need not be the end.

  5. Thank you, April. You speak to my own experience. I’m saving this piece to give a grieving friend when I think she can hear it.

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