Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
What happens to a dream deferred?
Or does it explode?
Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes
I remember this poem from a reader in grade school. The first line has always stuck with me. I don’t know for sure, but it seems to have come from this proverb in the Bible. I remembered the poem first, then when I read the scripture, I thought of Langston Hughes’ poem immediately.
In context, he might have been writing about racial equality. But he might also have been writing about a personal dream that kept him up at night, his stomach in knots, his own private battle to fight. Hope against hope. Thirsty for reprieve from his struggle.
It’s hard to say, Oh, I know what he’s talking about! I don’t know what his deferred dream was about. But I strongly relate to this poem in my own way! And I wish I didn’t—Ha! So much of what I hope for in life has been put on hold for such a long time because… I wish I knew the because! Maybe one day I will.
In waiting for my desire to cometh, I have become interested in how, to borrow the metaphors from Langston, I can keep from drying up, festering, rotting or going to sugar like my grandmother’s fig preserves. Surviving those times when my heart feels like it is in a winepress takes finesse. But it is then that the best flows out, in part because it is when I am least likely to judge someone else harshly. Or even judge myself. It is then when a glass of wine, a hot bath and early bed is a perfect plan, even for a weekend. It is then when I know simple is best—and as Jesus reminded Martha, only one thing is needed:
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about may things, but one thing is necessary. Joni has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41–42
I will choose the good portion as often as I can remember to do it, rejecting worry and the imagined false futures that cast me as sad and lonely. Nay! It will never be! I choose the good portion: to sit at Jesus’ feet. Abundant life, y’all! That’s what it’s about!
Never the less, bitterness is a real temptation for me, but fortunately I know where it leads. That is a person I do not want to be. In a way, it is the opposite of patience to blame others or myself or to resent God for what seems like withholding (#personalexperience). It is an impotent feeling—helplessness to fix the problem myself, and a lack of trust toward the One who could. What could be worse?
Looking back, it’s fully understanding what the alternative is that has made the truth so compelling to me. That is the choice. Turn and face the path to life or the path to death. When my desire cometh, I want to be able to enjoy it with a soft and open heart. ~ Joni
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Your turn: Do you have your own dream deferred? Who/What has sustained you this far? Has bitterness or negativity creeped in? Can you trust God to heal your heart so that you can enjoy the fulfillment of your desire? ~ Breath on Paper