What happens to dreams deferred? Proverbs says it makes the heart sick. Langston Hughes suggests it sags like a heavy load. But I say it leads to a splitting path of covert idolatry or total surrender. I’ve stood at this crossroads for years. Praying. Crying. Praising. Waiting. But with the writing of this blog post I’ve chosen to surrender.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Like a one stop shop, Christianity became a spiritual Walmart; a place where I could find eternal life, daily provision, and the realization of all of my aspirations. I used the bible to justify my thinking. Matthew 6:33 was my favorite. I walked down each aisle wondering what else to put in my proverbial cart of “all these things.” With each passing year, Christ became less of a personal Savior and more of a magician, whose credibility was only earned through the success of my dreams.
For me “all these things” was marrying the perfect man. “All these things” was thriving in full-time ministry, with my group, God’s Chosen. “All these things” was achieving great success and having a bank account to prove it. But what happens when reality is something altogether different? What happens to my dreams, when the perfect man turns out to be a human, like me, and consequently my marriage is imperfect? What happens to my dreams, when my ministry, though full of potential, becomes stagnant? What happens to my dreams, when my bank account fails to reflect the height of success I imagined? What happens to my dreams?
I’ve always understood the danger of idols. At an early age, I learned about the Children of Israel and how their pagan neighbors influenced them to worship mythical gods. I read the scriptures rebuking those who built altars and high places to worship the god of harvest or the god of fertility. I felt the sting of God’s punishment when the Children of Israel continued to disobey His ordinance. I memorized God’s first and second commandment to never place anything before Him and to never make an image to worship (Exodus 20:3-4). I didn’t need anything else to persuade me to steer clear of idols.
But I failed.
God recently opened my eyes to see that the moment the failure of my dreams began to distort my view of Him, was the moment my dreams became idols; superseding the truth of what I knew about God in my mind and in my heart. He told me if the failure of my dreams had the power to make me doubt His goodness; if the stagnation of my dreams had the power to make me question His love for me; if the denial of my dreams had the power to negatively influence my worship; my dreams had become my god. (whoa!)
The truth is often a hard pill to swallow, but, thankfully, it comes with relief. I was relieved when God told me the object of my idolatry (my dreams) weren’t the problem. He didn’t find fault in my desire for a spouse. He didn’t have an issue with my ministry. He even assured me there was nothing wrong with hoping to acquire multiple streams of income. God made clear the problem was my heart. He challenged me to pursue my goals, not without hope, but surrendered to Him; giving Him total veto power. By adopting this mindset, no matter the disappointment, my perception of God and His position in my life would remain in tact.
In context, Matthew 6:33 refocuses our attention from “all these things,” to God. It’s inclusion of “all these things” specifically refers to food, water, and clothing – the basic necessities of life – reminding us if we ever lack, there is a God who hears our prayers, feels our yearning, and has the power to supply all of our needs according to His riches and glory. “All these things” simply reinforces the idea that God is for us. His thoughts about us outnumber the sand by the seashore. He bottles our tears, numbers the hairs on our heads, and calls us by name. Failure, then, must be filtered through unwavering confidence that God has our best interest at heart and because He is the God of our dreams, His plan is better than any plan we could have ever devised for ourselves.