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Jun 24, 2010

Grace



I heard a story once, and I should caution that I don't know if it's true. If it were about a dream come true, I would have reason to doubt it, but it is rather about disappointment come true, so I find it believable.

A woman born in a Central American country in the midst of a civil war fled from the violence as a child. Her name, shall we say, was Grace. She was terrified that she would die, but one night she had a dream, in which an angelic figure, or maybe a woman who looked like her dead grandmother, or maybe the Virgin Mary -- I don't remember, and maybe she herself didn't either, by the time she shared the story -- told her, "You will not die, because you are going to achieve a Great Thing in your life, and God will keep you alive."

Grace was greatly cheered, not only by the knowledge that she was going to live, but that she would live with purpose, with an important destiny. As a child, she never told anyone her dream, but she cherished it in her heart, and thought back on it often. At first, the fact she and her family were able to make it into the United States seemed to confirm her dream, as did her excellent progress learning English, her good grades in highschool and then college.

Yet decades slipped by, and though she married satisfactorily, and bore children she loved, she could not help but notice the dreary ordinariness of her life, the extremely non-special destiny that now seemed her lot, with no great, heaven-blessed achievement in sight. She aged and fattened and grayed, and by the time she pressed fifty, she felt worn out, worn down, disillusioned and despairing.

It was at this point that Grace finally shared her dream with a group of women who met with a psychologist for depression.

The other women suggested to her that perhaps she had overlooked the obvious: perhaps God had kept her alive precisely to live and love, that in His eyes this was a Great Thing, maybe the Greatest thing. And if this were a story of a dream come true, or a Hallmark movie, Grace would have agreed and felt renewed gratitude and love for her family.

I warned you, however, that it was a story of a disappointment come true. The woman pretended to agree with the group, but in her heart, she was not comforted. She didn't want to be "special" in an ordinary way, treasured, like the sparrow, by God alone, she wanted to be special in the extrodinary way, recognized by thousands, or better still, hundreds of thousands of other human beings. She wanted to be famous, successful and important. That was how she had understood God's promise to her as a child, that was the dream that had sustained her. And though she recognized now, as an adult, that she had no right to expect to be important, certainly no right to demand it from destiny, still, she rebelled. She acknowledged, privately, the folly of her hubris, but this only deepened her bitterness.

God had lied to her.

When I heard this story, I was angry at the woman for her refusal to be comforted. Because, if she had been comforted by the women's interpretation of her dream, I felt, the story would have had a happy ending after all. She would have found grace where she least expected it. And yet, I was also aware that I was a hypocrite. Because, although I had never escaped a civil war, or been promised anything by an angel in a dream, nonetheless, as a child I had cherished the exact same hope, and as an adult, I awakened to the same disappointment.

2 comments:

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Wow, this is powerful. I think it's impossible to go through life and not be disappointment in our achievements if we're constantly comparing them to others or some grandiose thing in our mind. I think true happiness comes with simply being content with what we have and who we are and always striving to be better. That can be a tough thing to achieve, though. I work on it every day and often fail.

Tara Maya said...

I think you're right, Michelle, and, yeah, sometimes I achieve, many days I don't.

I am looking forward to buying your book, btw. :)