The bumper sticker my Mom put on my car is absolutely accurate: “Caution: Driver Singing!” From as young as I can remember, I sang. I sang in the shower, I sang in bed. (My brother would yell at me from across the hall to shut up.) I sang while mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, and driving the car.
When I was 15, we had a church member anonymously pay for me to take voice lessons. About the second day that I stood at her piano, I decided that this was my dream. This is what I would do for the rest of my life. She taught me techniques and scales and songs, and then, though I didn’t speak a word of Italian, she taught me Scarlatti’s aria “Le Violette” and sent me off to my first auditions. I went to All State Choir, sang with the NC Symphony Orchestra, and got accepted to UNCW, ECU, and Methodist College as a vocal performance major.
And then, I started listening to the other voices around me, telling me I couldn’t or shouldn’t, and I watched them walk away with pieces of my shattered dream.
We have a picture in our heads and in our hearts of what life should look like, and when life doesn’t turn out that way, there are a lot of responses we could have. Some have anger at God, or anger at the people they blame for messing up their picture. Some become despondent and give up on life.
I took a different road. The road of resignation. I decided that I wasn’t good enough and that it was a good thing I quit while I was ahead. Recently, a friend asked me about my dreams, and I instinctively and resignedly told him that my dreams are dead. We’ll come back to this topic…
Nicodemus was a highly trained religious leader. For all of his life, he had been taught that Messiah was coming, and that Messiah would look and act a certain way. It never occurred to the religious leaders to look for anything besides the rosy picture they’d drawn. So, when Jesus came and didn’t fit the mold they had built for the Messiah, they rejected the Messiah that they had been waiting on for millennia. Instead of overthrowing the government they hated, he spent time eating and drinking with prostitutes and crooks. He didn’t have a palace, but instead, slept in the streets. He challenged their thinking and their legalism. And so they tried him, and killed him, and tried to put him out of their minds—forget he ever existed.
How often do we do that?
We want God to scratch certain itches or look a certain way, and when he doesn’t, we reject him.
We reject him because he loves divorcees and unwed mothers and homeless people and drunks.
We reject him because he makes us change things about ourselves that we don’t want to change — we have to forgive, we have to love, we have to be honest even when it hurts.
Jesus didn’t look like Nicodemus thought he would, but Nicodemus didn’t reject Jesus. Once Jesus had died, Nicodemus took Jesus’ body, carefully wrapped it in spices and linens, and gave it a proper burial. But more than all of that, he believed in Jesus. Nicodemus believed. And Jesus rose again.
My life doesn’t look like I expected it to look, but I’m not going to hold that against God. My dreams died. But I’ve started realizing that Jesus breathed life into new dreams for me that are better than the ones I had before. My old dreams were focused on Sarah. But I met a Jesus who looks different than I expected him to, and he gave me dreams and a life that look different than I expected them to. And the dreams that he gave me don’t just focus on Sarah, but on doing what I can do to help love and heal and save the whole world. And there’s nothing wrong with those dreams. Or the unexpected Jesus who gives them to me.
This post is part of our weekly discussion on Andy Stanley’s book, “The Grace of God.” You don’t have to read the book to stick around and chat with us, though! If you have read the chapter and written a response, please link up at the widget at my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen’s place. I’ll see you back here next week.