When I was 6 years old, I wanted to grow up and sing like Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. I loved my khaki plastic record player which played my Dad’s amazing album collection, including the soundtracks for The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. I could actually sing every word to Wizard of Oz before I ever saw the movie – on TV, of course.
By the time I was 21, my dreams were more realistic. They included a husband who I would build a life and family with and if I was lucky,we’d travel the world a little. I didn’t really have a vision for a career or anything other than I wanted to be a singer but didn’t expect to be a famous one.
Ironically, for much of the last 20 years I have spent my time helping other people become successful artists which as it turns out was WAY better than doing it myself. I’ve watched artists that I worked with perform for thousands of people and traveled with them to the majority of states in this country. I’ve also done other things I never imagined. I’ve visited more than a dozen countries on 4 continents. I lived in Manhattan for 3 years and worked at a new church. And I’ve been lucky to meet so many amazing people!
I’m frequently told, “I have an exciting life.” Hardly. People imagine I must have everything I ever wanted. Far from it.
I know that I have been blessed with a lot more than I would have ever had the courage to dream for myself, but I don’t see much of what people consider great about my life. When they see my life, they see freedom and independence. I see a lot of emptiness and the lack of somebody who cares where I am or when I’ll be back. They see travel to far-off places and cool experiences. I remember an early morning on a business trip to Seattle watching the ferries come in and the sun come up on the Puget Sound while drinking the perfect cup of coffee and wondering why there is never anyone to share those experiences with me.
On my sad days, when I look at my life, all I see is a big gaping hole where I pictured a husband and family of my own. It is hard to admit that the main things I wanted are now the very dreams that haven’t turned into reality.
At 20, when I was full of big dreams and huge expectations, one of my favorite verses was Jeremiah 29:11 that says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Not only did I just assume the future included husband and kids, but I never even considered it wouldn’t happen. So I find myself needing to confess that today I am living a life I NEVER wanted.
Occasionally I catch myself asking, why did God do this to me, did He forget about me? If he didn’t, where is He in this situation? Were those promises in Jeremiah offering everyone else a a hope and a future, just not me? Or maybe I am reaping the rewards of bad choices. Maybe the future He planned was never intended to include the things I dreamed for.
Is it possible that the same verse that gave me hope as a naïve 21 year old, can give me hope as a disappointed 40 something?
It is comforting to me that God sent this verse to Hebrew slaves held in captivity in Babylon. In the midst of what was probably their worst case scenario, God sent a message of hope and not just for their salvation. This is a reminder that there is Hope for a future but you also have a life to live in the meantime and there is a plan and a purpose for it as well.
I try to imagine the response of the exiles upon hearing this letter: captive, hundreds of miles from the only home they’ve ever known living in the midst of enemies. I imagine they were hoping for something a little more like an escape plan; certainly not instructions like build houses and plant gardens.
While they are told they will return home, it won’t be for 70 years so his detailed instructions focus on the ‘in the meantime’. He’s acknowledging that they are captives in a faraway land and it’s not what they hoped for but it’s their reality today and they need to grow up and deal with it. Don’t spend any more time sitting on the couch with bon bons watching sad old movies or crying into pillows.
We often find ourselves stuck in those ‘in the meantime’ seasons. I imagine many of you are dealing with your own ” in the meantime” reality: maybe you were surprised by a serious illness or sudden unemployment and financial hardships or maybe complicated family relationships or a marriage that didn’t live up to expectations.
Ultimately, it all comes down to a question of trust. Can we trust that God is the author of our story and that there is a plan and a purpose even in the midst of the unfulfilled expectations and painful disappointments? Can I trust that this ‘in the meantime’ is part of the promised hope and future that will prosper me and not harm me – even though it sometimes hurts? Can I trust that there is a purpose at work for my good and for His glory, even in the midst of my own worse case scenario? Deep down I believe that I can. I just have to remind myself that I do from time to time.
It may not be the answer I wanted to hear but it is the one I need to learn.