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Reclaim & Recover: Daring to Dream

After living with fear and shame for long enough, we learn to submit to them without thinking. We let them define us without a fight. We let them steal our joy… and our dreams. When we submit to fear and shame, we lose our ability to dream. To break the cycle of fear and shame we have to dare to imagine again who we are and what we are capable of without the ceiling that fear and shame create. We have to dare to dream. We have to imagine the life we desire and know we are capable of achieving but are too scared to pursue. Shame creates a ceiling. It tells us we need to ask for permission; permission to be valuable, permission to embrace our strengths, permission to love ourselves, permission to dream. When the shame ceiling is removed, we discover who we are, what we want, and we stop asking for permission.


Often trauma and heartbreak are accompanied by the death of a dream and this loss can take the stuffing out of us. When a dream dies, we have to grieve it. When a dream dies, we have two choices. That grief can make us angry and bitter or we can grieve the loss and begin to fill that space with a new dream. Finding new dreams takes courage. This is the point in the recovery process where we have to boldly look shame and fear in the face and say, “I will fight for something beautiful”.


Often, grief and new dreams exist in the same space. The process of grieving the loss of old dreams and creating new dreams, imagining the beauty that lies in front of you, happen at the same time. Glennon Doyle, author of the book Untamed, explains it well; “Progress through something traumatic is not linear. It’s not like we go from unhealthy to healthy, failure to success. I think it’s circular. You just come back to the same pain and the same loneliness. But each time you come around, you’re stronger from the climb”.


In my own life, the death of dreams was the complete loss of the future I had always envisioned for myself. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian community and my little, perfectionist child self was determined to be the best Christian I could be. The way I understood it, the highest calling for any Christian was to sacrifice the comforts of home to spread the hope of the Gospel to the nations. My whole life, since I was two years old, I dreamed of being a missionary. My mind and my heart were completely invested in this dream and I was unwavering in my goal. I would be a missionary in a far off place, being ‘Jesus with skin on’, advocating for justice and helping secure resources for developing communities. Africa? India? Armenia? Azerbaijan?. I devoured books on different missionaries and took every opportunity to write papers for classes at my Christian school about missionaries and missionary life. I even got a degree to become a missionary. This dream encompassed my whole future. It was accompanied by a dream to pursue righteousness through purity and eventually marry a Godly man and have a beautiful marriage that would be a testament of our faith.


The reality of my life has turned out very different than that dream. First, my purity was compromised which, I believed, precluded me from the beautiful marriage I had dreamed of. Years later when I was in the middle of a divorce that was largely my fault, I was heartbroken not just over the loss of my marriage but the death of my dream. And after that divorce I was too emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted to pursue my dream of being a missionary. And frankly, my faith went through a massive transition and I no longer desired to be a missionary. I had to release that dream too. When both of those dreams died, I felt completely defeated and completely lost. I didn’t have a plan B. I believed I was incapable of having a healthy relationship, much less a healthy marriage and I had put zero thought into an alternative career path. The sense of failure was so profound I felt like it would drown me.


A year or so after the divorce, a friend encouraged me to consider getting my master’s degree in counseling. They encouraged me to trust my gifts and passions and DO something with them… get the degree, pursue a new career path and be the person I was meant to be. Could I release that dream of living and working overseas and pursue a new career path that could be equally as fulfilling? The seed was planted but I was so gun shy after such massive failure that it took five more years before I was ready to bite the bullet and dare to dream up a new life for myself. When I had sat in the muck long enough and got tired of punishing myself for my failures, I started to imagine a completely new future for myself. I imagined a version of myself that was strong and healthy and able to use my compassion and empathy and my passion for helping others reclaim their value. Spreading hope would look different than it did in my childhood dream of being a missionary but now I could envision myself spreading hope by holding space people’s stories and their pain and their hopes and helping them gain the tools to love themselves and pursue their own dreams.


Imagining that woman watered the seed that had been planted a few years before and I began imagining myself as a counselor. Did I dare to dream a new dream? What if I failed and that dream died too? But I chose to dare to dream. I stopped asking for permission and validation and chose a direction for my own life. I chose to acknowledge and affirm the passions and giftings within myself that would equip me for a new and beautiful future. I chose the new dream over my fear of failure and enrolled in a master’s program and am creating a new career goal for myself.


This gave me the courage to dare to dream of a healthy, romantic relationship. When I dreamed of a beautiful and healthy relationship, I could see it and I could envision it. I even knew who I could see that with, but I’d been so scared to dream and so scared of failure that I’d run from that relationship more than once, fearing another round of heartbreak like what I’d experienced in my divorce. I had been so heartbroken that I was too afraid to dream because I was afraid I wouldn’t survive another heartbreak like that. But I chose the dream over fear. That relationship that I wanted but kept running from was with a guy who was still my best friend. I chose the dream and I told him, “I’m done running. I choose you”. And suddenly my heart was at rest. I had stopped running away and had chosen to run toward the most beautiful partnership I’ve ever known. I had stopped asking for permission to be loved and to be enough and I chose the person that I knew brought my hear the most joy.


The interesting thing about choosing dreams over fear and shame is that it actually brings a lot of peace. Running away keeps us in a perpetual state of anxiety as we try to outrun heartbreak. But when we choose the dream, we can rest. Choosing the dream certainly does not mean that we will never experience pain again. But when we choose new dreams after heartbreak, we are choosing to acknowledge that pain can exist in the same space as love and joy and dreams. When we choose the dream, we gather the courage to stop running from pain, to look it square in the face and say, “You will not defeat me, but what do you have to teach me?”. When we acknowledge our pain and dare to dream anyway, then we can start moving forward.


Shame and trauma and heartbreak condition us to believe that we are worthless and powerless and incapable. Our imagination, our DREAMS, however, can bypass this conditioning. It is by imagining and dreaming that we can rediscover hope after heartbreak. I’ll quote Glennon Doyle again because she says it so well. She tells her readers to imagine for themselves their truest most beautiful life. And in the face of fear she says,


Because what scares me a hell of a lot more than Pain is living my entire life and missing my becoming. What scares me more than feeling it all is missing it all.



Journal Prompts:

a. If the ceiling of shame was removed, who would you be?

b. When you imagine a healthy, beautiful, fulfilling life for yourself, what would life look like?

c. What dreams are you grieving the loss of?

d. What are the new dreams that are worth the risk?

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