Today, I’m making a bit of room here for Sheridan Voysey. I think his words will strike a cord for many of us who have had to experience loss before we could experience resurrection. When I read his post here, I knew it was for us: those of us who have had to see a dream die before another could take its place. Yesterday, Ray Hollenbach (a spiritual formation director, pastor-heart, and fellow Vineyard-y guy) tweeted this:

I think we often don’t make enough room in our churches and lives and families for the death of something, for the navigating of the loss that accompanies deep change. I’ve been thinking about it more and more with our “Your Turn” series here, as well as a few other situations. So I’m thankful for Sheridan Voysey’s words here and pray that they minister to you. Check out his book on this subject, Resurrection Year.

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‘I think that’s all of it,’ my wife Merryn said, pushing a play rug into the last available space in the car.

‘Thank you,’ my sister-in-law said, rubbing her hand over her baby bump. ‘This will all be so useful.’

The car now overflowed with all the paraphernalia one needs for the arrival of a baby. There was a baby carriage in the trunk, along with a stroller. A highchair sat on the back seat beneath the children’s books and portable playpen, and a play rug and bags of bibs were pushed into the spaces leftover.

My sister-in-law closed the trunk, gave Merryn a hug, then drove off up the street.

It had taken Merryn and me a decade to accumulate all those baby things.

Preparing for a dream that was never to be.

Christmas 2010 had been shaping up to be a Christmas like no other. After ten years spent trying almost every means possible to start a family—including special diets, courses of fertility-boosting supplements, healing prayer, numerous rounds of IVF treatment, an agonizing two-year wait on the Australian adoption list, followed by more rounds of IVF—we had been told we were pregnant.

Pregnant! After a decade waiting we were going to have a baby.

Then a call came to Merryn’s cell phone on Christmas Eve.

‘I’m afraid,’ the nurse said, ‘your pregnancy hormone levels have dropped significantly…’

‘But,’ Merryn said, ‘you told us we were preg…’

‘I am so sorry.’

Merryn had put down the phone, walked into our bedroom and curled up in a fetal position. Our dream of having a baby was over.

Now the remnants of that decade-long journey were being carried away in my sister-in-law’s car.

A few weeks before that fateful phone call, I had interviewed British author Adrian Plass on my radio show. Chatting after the interview, I told him about the difficult decade Merryn and I’d had, and how we hoped 2011 would be better. He listened intently to my story then said something profound. ‘In the Christian scheme of things,’ he said, ‘new life follows the death of something, just as Jesus’ resurrection followed his crucifixion. After what you’ve been through, I think a Resurrection Year is what you need.’

A Resurrection Year—a year of new life after the death of a dream.

The phrase struck a chord.

Little did we know it then, but in just a few months’ time Merryn and I would be setting off on an adventure we’d never forget—walking the streets of Rome, climbing the Alps of Switzerland, and settling into our new city of Oxford, United Kingdom, where Merryn would get a dream job at the University and I would write a book helping others recover from their broken dreams.

None of this was what we had planned for our lives. God turned our broken dream into a new beginning.

But this new beginning required something of us.

The baby carriage, the stroller, the children’s books and play rug—like burs that cling to your clothes after a forest walk, they were all reminders of our past. And to move on we had to say goodbye to that past.

We had to say farewell the dream that was never to be.

When my sister-in-law announced she was expecting again, Merryn and I were given an opportunity to do that. And as she drove up the street with our baby things in tow, something significant happened in Merryn’s heart:

The forest burs were plucked from her clothes.

The symbols of the past were carried away.

And that meant we could finally grieve, and say farewell to the dream that for a decade had made our hearts sick.

So, perhaps you long to be married but are still single, or your artistic career has never taken off. Maybe a crushing diagnosis has shattered your dreams for your loved one, or the whirlwind romance has ended in divorce. The good news is, you can start again after your broken dream. God may even turn it into a surprising new beginning.

But for that to happen there comes a time to relinquish that dream.

So that God can give you a new one.

___________________

Sheridan Voysey is a UK-based writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His latest book Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings chronicles his and his wife’s journey to start life afresh after ten years of infertility. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and catch his podcasts and videos at www.sheridanvoysey.com Sheridan will be touring the US in October 2014.

In which we pray for belonging :: for SheLoves Magazine
In which I link you up (vol. 44)
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  • KimberlyCoyle

    I have a dream that’s hanging on by a thin thread, and I’m asking myself these hard questions. Perhaps it’s time to lean in and run this race hard, and perhaps it’s time to let this dream die. I don’t know on which side of the line it will fall, but I take heart in knowing that the resurrection is ongoing either way. Mary DeMuth discusses a similar theme in her latest post, and together you have me thinking. Thanks for sharing your story, Sheridan.

    • I always find that is the hardest call to make – push through or let go.

    • Thinking of you <3

      • KimberlyCoyle

        Tanya, thank you! I haven’t crossed paths with you recently:( Must remedy that!

    • Hi Kimberly. Knowing when to let a dream die is the hardest decision to make. I’ll be writing more about this on my blog in the weeks to come as I’m getting asked the question so often. What I can say is this: firstly, Merryn and I couldn’t move on until we let the dream go, after seeking it so long, and being able to grieve. And secondly, if we really believe Jesus is who he says he is, we can leave it to him to resurrect the dead dream if we’ve laid it to rest too early.

  • Elizabeth

    He mentions Adrian Plass in this excellent post. Just wanted to put in a plug for Plass’ books – they are wonderful. He writes a lot of very funny things (The Sacred Diary series)…but also some serious ones like, Jesus: Safe, Tender, Extreme. HIGHLY recommended to anyone who wants some new books for their reading lists. Seriously everyone – go find some Plass books.

    • And Adrian is the real deal in person, as he is in his books. Love the man.

  • Missy

    Wow this is so timely. Thank you for having him guest post. My daughter has found out she will never be able to conceive. I don’t know how to help her and feel helpless but never without hope. I know Jesus can either give her a family or give her a new dream. In time, I will share this book with her.

  • I really have nothing to add except amen. And thank you.

  • Monica

    This made me think of the time of grieving that comes from letting go. That time may be short or long depending on what was lost and any other pain that appears from previous losses. We may choose to endure and heal through the pain or push it aside, but at some point we will have to either give ourselves a break and let go or hurt like hell forever.

    My biggest dream was to be married and give birth to my own babies. I wanted to be the best mother ever. God has a different plan. Due to illness I could not have children and I have not met “Mr. Right.” It took a long time to heal from the loss of those dreams, but I have believed that God has wanted me to minister to women as a spiritual mother instead, which I am grateful for. My question – is my way of wanting that dream of ministry to happen the way I imagine it, or does God have a different path? Part of me doesn’t care how or if it happens and the other part of me wants to do it for the delight of the Lord. Some days I think I should let it go and other days I cling to it.

    For all of us who are in the middle of suffering from any type of loss or going through the process of letting go, may God meet and encourage each of us right where we hurt. And, may we be bold and courageous enough to let go and embrace His new.

    Monica

    • I love the way you’re thinking about how your broken dream can be turned into service, Monica. THAT is the key, and was how Merryn and I were able to move on with some meaning to our own loss. I can only imagine how valuable the empathy born of your pain will be in the life of a girl who needs an ‘aunty’ to talk to, or for the woman who needs someone who ‘gets’ what having a deeply held dream lost really means.

  • I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’d like to get married and I feel like if I say that wish is dead, I’m saying I’ve lost hope. Isn’t God all about hope? I’m forty-eight, but I don’t think that’s “too late” even though it does seem more and more unlikely. I feel deeply for those who want to have children and can’t (I’m adopted), but surely there are many dreams that really never need to die. Though I’ll also have to admit that it would be nice to say, “My time has passed,” because then I really could grieve. Instead, I feel like I’m just in limbo.

    • I think you’re right, Cynthia – not all unfulfilled dreams need to die. If you can keep the dream peacefully in your life without it dominating or consuming you, keep it! if, however, you find it holding you back in a significant way, or find it becoming a little idol (those of us with broken or unfulfilled dreams know how easily they can become idols), then it may be time to rethink it in order to move on with God.

  • Emilie

    Things like this are very personal decisions and no one can say when your dream has to be laid to rest other than you and God. I wish someone could write the book to say exactly what point this comes in the life of everyone, but it’s impossible. I am grateful for this book because it dares to say the uncomfortable things about faith journeys, but it’s a description of their experience, not a prescription for all people suffering from dreams not coming true. I wish it were otherwise as I slog through my own road to parenthood, but I will take encouragement where I can find it.

  • pastordt

    Thank you for living this, thank you for sharing it so beautifully. This is such an important message, this acknowledgement that dying dreams can be redeemed in ways we simply cannot see when we’re on the front side of the pain and loss.

  • With tears welling in my eyes, I’m writing this. We just got some heartbreaking news about our church plant. She may not survive. Quite possibly this sweet, beautiful, Kingdom baby will not be born. Even though saw her perfectly form and reflecting Jesus is profound ways here in Boston, she may not come to be. And I’m hurting. deeply. I’m angry and sad and frankly questioning our calling. Question God too, “if you wanted this Lord…then why?” but this post gives me something to pray/think on this week. Thank you for sharing.

    • Bev Murrill

      Ossetia, I too have planted churches. Some of them thrived greatly…but not all of them. And a couple of our church plants have died…but not before they breathed life into some folk who may never have made it otherwise. Not wanting to sound trite but sometimes it’s a case of the grain of wheat that has to fall into the ground and die…so that much more fruit will be borne. Don’t question your amazing calling – watch and see the life that will come from this disappointment … X