Welcome to part 1 of Dream Killer. This series comes out of a time of intense trial for me and my husband. We were crushed, beat down, perplexed and left wondering what in the world was going on.
This series is not for the faint of heart. It is for those who wrestle with deep questions while holding onto the horns of the altar with white knuckles. It is for those who have decided to truly know God even when his ways are incomprehensible.
Part 1: Mourning
Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory. William Barclay
“The Lord gave me a word for you. It’s going to sound harsh, though.” I braced myself as a woman of God I trusted painfully shared the message she had been given. “God has miscarried your babies.” Confused and stunned, I sat there trying to comprehend the words she had just spoken. What could this possibly mean? She had traveled far to see me, to minister to me in the midst of agonizing pain. Grief I didn’t even know was possible was pouring out of me. And this was what God was saying?
I blinked a few times to clear the ever flowing tears that blurred my vision in hopes that it would clear my mind. But still only one word kept rolling around in my tumultuous head: why?
In the course of six months my world had caved in. All my dreams crashed around me and I was left standing there, dusty, dirty, bleeding and crying as I tried to make sense of it all. No one physically died. And yet, the pain of the death of my dreams was just as real.
My husband and I live in the Middle East. We have given our lives to follow Jesus wherever he leads us. We know the risks and have lived through some of them. We committed to this life as singles and then again as a couple. We know the power of prayer and fasting and exercise those disciplines. We memorize scripture and study the language.
We’d faced pain. And we learned to trust God. We’d stood at the gates of hell and watched the hand of God protect us from the flames. But the heat burned us and we had the scars to prove it, scars reminding us that we are permanently changed because of what we are called to do. Scars that remind us of the faithfulness of God.
So why all the pain now? Why the questioning? Only God knows the answer to that.
I have had two dreams for a long time now. The first is true for most women: a family. The second, however, is unique: seeing Jesus work in the lives of Arab Muslims. For a long time it seemed as though I was to sacrifice my first dream to fulfill the second. I spent five years in the Middle East alone. It was excruciating. It was painful. I begged God for a partner because the burden was too big for me to carry alone. But there I was in this huge desert city surrounded by Muslims and wondering where to even begin.
And God was faithful. At every painful step he was there holding my hand. I couldn’t always feel him, but he was there, quietly giving me little blessings and guiding me on his path.
I joke about this being the “dark time” of my life, but in many ways it really was. God stripped me of everything and I was forced to rely on Him.
So I learned my lesson, right?
In my naivety, or maybe my pride, I thought I had. And of course I thought that it was confirmed by the blessed marriage to my husband. He’s a truly wonderful man, my treasure from heaven. He loves Arab Muslims as much as I do and shares my dream of seeing Jesus work among this precious people.
So in the months leading up to our marriage and for six months after, I told my story to countless numbers of people and then I told them our vision for the future. I talked of my experiences and challenged people to love Muslims. I shared about Muslim women and how hard it can be to find a place to share Jesus with them. And I told them of our plan to open a place to meet this need. I could see it: a quaint cafe full of Muslim women talking and laughing and hearing about Jesus. I raised money for it.
And God blessed it. Miraculously. Unbelievably. Incredibly.
I assumed that by all this money coming in for the dream in my heart, that God would bring everything to fruition. We prayed and wandered through the city looking for just the right location. We worked tirelessly getting necessary paperwork from a government that sometimes changed their laws weekly. We fought for our electricity to be turned on for months. At times it seemed the mountain was so huge that maybe God was closing this door. So we laid a fleece before The Lord and he blew it out of the water. There was no question in our hearts and minds. God was in this.
So, we continued to move forward, spending a lot money renovating the space, creating what I saw in my head: an outward expression of my inward peace. I anointed and prayed over the place, truly believing that God would bring in the women because I had been faithful to work to see this dream become a reality.
We opened. I was so excited. Everything was perfect. And no one came. Weeks went by and a handful of local women meekly tiptoed into our little cafe wondering what would happen to them. Months went by and there was no growth. We wracked our brains to figure it out. I poured over marketing books and passed out coupons and fliers. Nothing. Days went by without a single person entering the doors.
I simply didn’t understand. Why would God give me the dream, provide for its inception only to keep women from darkening the doors? It was incredulous. We couldn’t stay open as a business without customers. We couldn’t stay open as a platform without opportunities to share Jesus. I was truly stunned.
I’ve been a believer a long time. I know God is good. But this seemed so cruel.
My first dream, though, the one of a family, that one was still strong. Prior to our wedding, I had the painful conversation with my then fiancé on the fact that it would be difficult for us to have kids. Not impossible, just hard. He hugged me and assured me that it would all be fine.
And so we waited. And waited.
Finally, after a long time of waiting, it was time to see the doctor. After lots of tests, we anxiously sat in the doctor’s office waiting for the verdict. As gently as he could, the doctor informed us that we couldn’t have biological children due to a genetic disorder my husband didn’t even know he had. I was totally stunned. People had had dreams and visions of us with children. How could this be?
And in the dark moments the questions began to rise. Questions that continually plague my mind, but can only be formulated into words for an anonymous, faceless audience of those I’ll never know. Maybe this was God’s grace because I would be a terrible mother. Maybe this was God’s mercy because he’s asking us to move closer to a war ravaged people who have fled those atrocities only to be met with a new set of horrors as they’re herded into refugee camps like cattle. Places where disease and crime rule. Or maybe he’s calling us to adopt. A lovely idea until the gut-wrenching decisions have to be made. Not from these countries because the child needs to look like us. We live among a people who have a very different understanding of adoption. We live among a people who don’t like different. Just the thought of what a child from a different ethnicity would endure throughout his life causes me to shudder. I couldn’t do that to a child.
Then the proverbial camel’s back broke.
So many dreams died in such a short time. And all seemingly at the hand of God. I felt like Job standing amidst the death and devastation wondering where God was. My head was so foggy and my heart so crushed, I couldn’t make sense of anything. Did I miss God? Did I hear wrong? Did I get ahead of him? Did I do something wrong? Because I know God is good, the only conclusion I could come to was that it was somehow my fault.
It was at this juncture that my friend came to visit to tell me that God had taken away my dreams. But my mind couldn’t comprehend that. It didn’t make any sense at all. We’d spent so much time, money and energy to get the cafe open. And why wouldn’t he want us to have a family? It seemed so crazy. It didn’t make sense. We had seen the hand of God perform miracles. We moved forward because it seemed the doors were wide open. Why was he crushing us now?
And then I got mad. The reality of what was happening hit me square in the face and I was furious. And I let God know.
Your word says, “You work all things together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose.”
Your word says, “Delight yourself in The Lord and do good and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Really? Is this true? Because I’ve memorized these verses in two languages and stood on them through all the issues with our business, through praying for friends to come to Christ, through waiting for a baby. I meditated on Scripture. I prayed. I fasted. I did everything right. So why this? Why didn’t God keep his end of the bargain? Why don’t I see the desires of my heart in front of me? Why aren’t all things good?
To be continued…