I wasn’t sure why I went, really, to this retreat full of writers and strangers all focused on Dreaming Big. In Nebraska, for goodness sakes. I was at the airport with a heavy heart, telling myself to turn around and go back, back toward piles of undone and unfolded and unclean. But it was already paid for, and I needed a break, so I boarded the plane with my head shaking slightly back and forth and my hands gripping my purse. What am I to do with dreams at a time like this? Dreams are for the stable, and the settled. Those who have things paid for and life wrapped up in boxes.
Dreams are a luxury I just can’t afford.
So I landed and bumped along hills and miles, rounding a corner toward this gathering of souls, through red barns and geese overhead and a landscape peppered with silos. There were speakers and art and writing and coffee, but in the middle of a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon, I rose. I couldn’t sit anymore. I couldn’t think anymore. I was the stoic one in the back who didn’t raise her hands to music. My throat was closing up and I needed to breathe.
So I bundled up and bolted, like I was skipping class and didn’t want the headmaster to catch up. But as I walked, the pain I left back in the south flew straight into my heart like geese in formation, trudging so predictably back in. I ended up on the edge of a Nebraska lake, all buttoned up in a pea coat to ward off the chilly wind, like I could shore up my own heart. There were ducks swirling aimlessly around, clucking and dunking and mocking me. Surely, Lord, you have more in store for me than this. Surely in time, dreams will arise.
With the wind and the ducks and the pain chasing my heels, I didn’t feel happy. I felt like hiding. And it was then that I heard it, so loud it made me jump. A group of men across the water must have been camping, or having a revival, or playing a mean game of poker, because the only sound I could hear was loud raucous laughter coming from male voices. Cackling, belly-bending howls that only come from deep inside, where a wellspring of joy bubbles up from within.
Seriously, God? This?
And I knew it was my only cure. The one way to break up the sharpness in my chest and shake it up like a snow globe, effervescent bubbles rising from my own soul. I’d find the funny. In time, I’d see this season of darkness juxtaposed with jewels of sparkling light, like rubies hidden in Easter eggs found one by one with the passage of years.
Dreams are not for the settled. For the happy. For the ones-who-have-it-all. Dreams are for the broken. For those who hold their arms out wide and say Lord, I can’t bear it any longer. Help me find a way, with the talents you’ve entrusted to me, to serve. To find joy.
And hope will arise, following you all the way to Nebraska. You stay up past bedtime, and wit will somehow travel from your brain to your pen and it is the new balm of Gilead that is saving your own soul.
I heard the voice of God, and He was laughing. Either that or it was some big hairy dude on the other side of the lake. Either way, I’ll take it.