“Shattered Dreams”: A Surgical Scalpel on the Table of My Ongoing Spiritual Heart Surgery

(I know.  That title was some heavy stuff.  Nothing like coming back from some sporadic postings with a heavy hitter like that, huh?)

A little while back in one of my daily readings of “The Money Saving Mom” blog, I came across a post about a program by a Christian book publisher called Waterbrook Press.  I’m a reader so this program piqued my interest and I took a look.

The program invited bloggers to receive books for free in exchange for posting their reviews about the book on Waterbrook’s website and in their own blogs.  This was really up my alley.  Up until this point I had been reviewing books just because it comes naturally to share when a writer has impacted me in some way.  Now I could receive books to do that!  I signed up.

The process was simple: choose a book and it would be mailed to me in a couple of weeks.

I remember sitting in Chick-fil-A with my laptop, the kids playing on the playground, looking through the publisher’s list.  In all honesty the book “Shattered Dreams” was in the margins of my mind.  I saw it but didn’t really “see it”.  I was actually trying to make a decision between two other books.  These were pretty “hot” books amongst reviewers.  But by the grace of God I suddenly just made a shift the other way….I can’t even recall the thinking behind it.  A strange moment indeed, but in retrospect…Divine.

“Shattered Dreams” is written by a well-known Christian psychologist, Larry Crabb.  His name rang familiar with me.  I thought I had heard him on radio programs such as James Dobson, Family Life Radio, and others.  He has written many books and is currently the spiritual director for the American Association of Christian Counselors.

“Shattered Dreams” includes an eight week workbook in the back pages.  I have read the book by itself but am now using the workbook section to further digest what I read. And there’s a lot I need to think about.

The book was written ten years before this printing so it includes a more current author’s note in the beginning.  Here Larry Crabb explains that he was in his fifties when he wrote this book and at the time was a two-year cancer survivor, “a cancer that came within two hours of claiming my life,” he states.  Ten years later, the cancer is back albeit slow-growing and nonmetastasizing.

It is here in the author’s note that Larry Crabb begins to explain why he wrote the book and where he is on the journey that inspired the writing of the book.

Let me just preface right here that the book is not a book for cancer survivors in case anyone has dismissed the book at this point because that topic doesn’t relate to you.  Cancer recovery is an important topic that affects way more people than we would like but his book is written to an even broader audience.

In the face of cancer Larry Crabb discovered within himself a deep dream common to most everyone.  Let me allow him to speak for himself:

“The dream of good health is an obvious one; it’s visible and measurable, like dreams of a great marriage, fulfilling vocation, or sufficient income….but in my mid sixties I’m aware of a deeper dream than good health, relationships, employment and finances.  I think it is a core dream that’s at the center of every human being, subtle, and so imbedded in our makeup that we experience it as an entitlement, a given of how things should be. It’s a dream we don’t believe might come true, but one we think should if there really is a God. It’s the dream to be truly happy, to feel excited about life, to wake up every morning full of energy to tackle the adventure and seize the opportunity that lies before us, and ultimately, to encounter God’s palpable presence in every dark night.” (p.IX)

When I came to this point in the beginning of the book I was struck by the above quote in bold.  Please don’t miss it.  “It’s a dream we don’t believe might come true, but one we think should if there really is a God.”

I once heard it said that everyone is either just about to go through a storm, in the middle of a storm, or recovering from a storm.  It also seems to me that in the middle of a normal rain shower you can have intermittent downpours that cease only to be followed by gusty winds, and then sometimes, they come at the same time.  And then just as you begin to think it’s all over, one more torrential downpour comes again with an encore performance before the sun finally, almost unbelievably, breaks through.

Life can be like this.

The human response to the rain showers of life is quite varied and Larry Crabb’s book responds to that fact.  He states,

“We have our own ideas about what a good God should do in the middle of our circumstances, ideas that stretch all the way from opening a space in a crowded parking lot near the mall’s entrance to funding our ministry dreams to straightening out our kids to giving us a negative biopsy report.” (p. 2)

Whatever we think about God when we are in the trials of life, whether subconsciously or consciously, is usually best revealed through the storms of life, especially those that seemingly will just not…let…up.  And in these times the incongruity between what we think about God and the truth about God’s thoughts toward us, are revealed.

Larry Crabb sets out to make these three points:

1)  God wants to bless us.  However “He gives us what He thinks is good, what He knows is good.  We don’t always agree.”

2)  An encounter with Him is what we want, but we don’t know it. Larry Crabb explains,

“We dream lower dreams and think there are none higher.  We dream of good marriages, talented kids, enough health and money to enjoy life, rewarding work, and an opportunity to make a difference in the world.  All good things.  Of course we want them.  But we think they are the best things.  That’s what God means when He calls us foolish….The deepest pleasure we’re capable of experiencing is a direct encounter with God. ..But we almost always mistake lesser pleasures for this greatest pleasure and live our lives chasing after them.  We’re not in touch with our appetite for God.” (pp. 3,5)

3)  The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us dream the highest dream. Shattered dreams are “ordained opportunities for the Holy Spirit first to awaken then to satisfy our highest dream.”

There is so much more to say.  I wanted to give you a taste here.   I hope to  post more in the future.   May I just leave you with some closing personal comments about this book?

There were times when I was reading this book that I just wanted to close it and walk away.  It was like a surgical scalpel on my heart as I alluded to in my post title.  I fully believe God determined on that ordinary day in Chick-fil-A that I was to read this book.  I didn’t want to read it at times.

You all know I’ve had my own rain showers.  I have been on a long  journey of “heart” surgery over the years that was intensified with my neck problems.   I learned some ugly truths about myself, visited some dark places to which I never want to go again.   The physical pain was horrid, but the psychological loneliness of terrible daily pain was just as bad.

It was also a rich season of discovery in which I tasted that “highest dream” that I pridefully thought I had already found.  I discovered that I had a white fisted grip on those secondary dreams that though good ( and Larry Crabb never says that we shouldn’t enjoy those things and appreciate the blessing that they are) were holding the wrong position in my life.  It was worth it.  I am grateful for the gifts behind that pain.

I share all of this to say, don’t dismiss this book because everything is fine….or because it sounds depressing…or because you might be afraid of that kind of heart surgery…..or you just can’t take anymore pain than what you are already currently going through.

We are not assured of peace this side of heaven.  In fact, the Bible says to “consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Don’t live in denial.  Storms are coming.  You may be in one now and are taking cover.  You can turn to lesser dreams in order to cope.  (And that’s what it is-coping.)  You can try to dismiss your desire for something more, allowing good things like food, hobbies, exercise, career, the success of your children, the pursuit of love, education, politics, the desire to make a difference…. to become distractions that become addictions to numb your pain and make you feel good about you….

Or you can humbly admit that you were first made to have a relationship with the Creator and that He loves you enough to keep pursuing you.  Like a loving parent He will allow you momentary pain in the hope that you will respond by throwing your arms around Him and your head into His lap and proclaim with joy,  “You really are all I want and need when it comes down to it.”  And then you will find your footing in a place that didn’t seem to have any ground on which to stand.

Then you won’t be surviving anymore.  You will be living.

I’m sure I will mention “Shattered Dreams” again.  I am grateful for this book.  Though painful at times, it was a scalpel I am glad the Great Physician used on my heart.

And  I think you will be too.

Thank you Waterbrook Press and thank you Larry Crabb for your courage and transparency in writing this book.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jessica on January 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Your wife and you are truly sending Gods “word” through words…Thank you both for your post.


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