I've been thinking a lot about hopes and dreams lately. We all have them--some big, some small. Sometimes, not very often, our dreams work out exactly as we hoped they would. Sometimes they don't work out at all. A lot of the time they end up evolving, or are set aside in favor of new dreams. Dreams are great. Hope is healthy. In fact, it is essential. But what happens when things we have really wanted take a turn that is disappointing to us?
A friend of mine recently shared this hypothetical: You plan a trip to Italy. You really, really want to go there. You learn Italian, you save money, you read up on art, food, history, architecture, and culture. You get a passport and visa. You plan for years, and finally you get on the plane for Italy. Halfway across the Atlantic, a flight attendant comes on and tells you the plane is not going to Italy, but Holland. You arrive in Holland, speaking no Dutch, knowing nothing of the people or culture, and not wanting to be there. How do you react?
Do you sit in your hotel room and mope about how you wish you were in Italy, or do you embrace the adventure and enjoy Holland?
Changing our mindset is harder for some people than others. But one key to happiness is the ability to adapt to what life throws at us. And if we have an attitude of selfless service, the bumps and difficulties can be greatly eased. Looking outside ourselves is one way to focus less on what we want, and more on what God wants for us--because I believe that while He wants us to fulfill our dreams, He also see what we do not, and sometimes He has other things in mind that we don't realize will make us better, happier people.
So my advice to people who are caught up in how life isn't turning out the way they wanted is always, always to find some way to serve others and forget about themselves for a while. My dear friend Liz is an excellent example of this. She has hoped for marriage and children for a long time, and these things haven't come to her yet. I know this makes her sad. But she has thrown herself into loving and helping others, and she is an absolute delight to know and be with. For years she has worked with autistic children, and now she is in Ghana working with schoolchildren there. What a fantastic experience! She blogs about it here, and I hope you will feel her enthusiasm, joy, and love of life when you read her stories. Nowhere will you sense any bitterness at how things have turned out differently than she imagined. This is the way to do it, friends. In the process we'll bless a few lives and forge eternal bonds of friendship. I can't think of a better dream to have.