Howard Thurman wrote, “As long as man has a dream in his heart, he cannot lose the significance of living.” But what happens when the dream in our hearts — that earnest prayer — is delayed? How do you keep hope alive when days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into years?
Zechariah knew all too well what it was like to wait. He had long hoped for a child, and it was only in his old age that God answered by sending Gabriel — the angel of Advent conception announcements — with the good news: You will have a son, and his name will be John. Zechariah was shocked and perhaps a bit skeptical. But we know how the story goes. Elizabeth delivers John, who would later emerge from the wilderness with a message to prepare the way of the Lord.
Many years ago, I held on to a dream of having a child. I held on even after my boyfriend, whom I thought would become my husband, was killed in a jeep accident in Africa. I was in my early 30s — still time to find and meet someone to start a family with. I held on to the dream, and I prayed. Each birthday, though, gifted me a sense of growing hopelessness. There were many dark nights of my soul as I cried to God, wondering why this was not to be for me.
God, though, was answering in the most amazing way. When I finally married in my 40s, I saw just how God answered my desire for children. My bridal party had 17 flower girls: children from the rural community I was serving as a pastor. In addition to the flower girls, there were the boys who served as ushers. There were many more children who came together to form a choir that sang during the ceremony. They might not have been my biological children, but they were indeed mine, given to me by God to be part of their lives and tell them the story of a God who hears our cries, no matter how long it seems we are waiting.
Thurman urged all to “keep the dream alive.” Yes, keep it alive because we are never too old for dreams to be answered.
Ever-listening God, I surrender the dreams I hold in my heart, dreams that are new and dreams that have been way overdue in coming true. Grant me a sense of peace as I wait to see how you will answer me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Name a dream that was answered in an unexpected way. What was it? Who was involved? How did you feel? And, more importantly, how can you see God’s hand in it now?