When Dreams Don’t Come True

Today’s post is brought to you by one of my very favorites. Cathy has become a great friend from when I stumbled across her site and we connected immediately through our mutual love of reading. She blogs at Windows and Paper Walls about her fascination with literature, learning and all geeky things science related. She’s thoughtful, well-spoken and even sometimes pretends she’s from the hood (inside Twitter joke, if you aren’t tracking). I absolutely love her thoughtful post today. I hope you do to.

We all have dreams. Whether we are the type to shout our passions to the world or hold them quietly in our hearts, we all have desires burning deep inside.

But this broken world can be a harsh habitat, one that cares nothing for our best-laid plans, our bucket lists. So what do we do when our fondest dream doesn’t come to pass?

Here’s an inspiring true story.

***************

As a little girl, growing up on the grassland plains of Oklahoma in the 1930’s, Jerrie Cobb watched her pilot father take to the skies and she felt a stirring in her soul, a sealing of her fate.

Jerrie Cobb

Jerrie Cobb

By the age of 16, Jerrie was performing stunts over the cornfields of the Great Plains in a Piper Cub. By 19, she was giving flying lessons to grown men. At night, she sometimes slept underneath the wings of her plane, dreaming of the stars that whispered her destiny into the black sky.

Two years later, Jerrie was flying around the world, delivering planes to troops in the U.S. Air Force.

And the scrappy girl from Oklahoma just kept on coming, like a hurricane. She set world records for speed, distance, and absolute altitude. When she became the first woman to ever fly in the world’s largest air exposition in Paris, her fellow (male) pilots named her Pilot of the Year. Life Magazine called her “one of the most important young people in the United States.”

But ever since those childhood nights under the stars, Jerrie had longed for a wilder and bluer yonder. And shortly after she turned thirty, she became the first woman to join America’s fledgling astronaut program, which was gearing up for its first manned spaceflight.

Jerrie easily passed all the tests and started training with the men and, as usual, she was better than most of them. There was just one problem.

American authorities were dead-set against allowing women to actually fly on their rockets.

Jerrie knew she deserved a spot on a spaceflight, and she began arguing her case up the ranks of stubborn government officials. When her file finally landed on the desk of the Vice President of the United States, she thought she had a shot.

But Lyndon Johnson picked up Jerrie’s file, glanced through it, and scribbled across it, “Let’s stop this now.”

And just like that, her dream was over. Jerrie Cobb, one of the best airmen in the world, would never travel a single inch on a rocket ship.

***************

We’ve all known the powerful sting of ordinary disappointments: a friend’s betrayal, a lost opportunity, unrequited love.

But what do you do when your soul is truly crushed?

  • The doctor sits across a desk from you and reveals that your wife’s womb is never going to hold a baby
  • You toil and save for decades, pouring all your efforts into the goal of having your own business; and then in a few minutes of chaos in financial systems half a world away, all you’ve saved for is ripped from your grasp.
  • The second most powerful man in the world picks up the folder that contains everything you’ve ever dreamed of and worked for all your life, and writes four ugly words across it. Let’s Stop This Now.

Here are a few truths I pulled from the rest of Jerrie Cobb’s story – because her story didn’t end with the sweep of an executive pen.

***************

Only God’s wisdom is infinite – and He has a work for you to do.

I have no doubt that Jerrie deeply mourned her loss. But at some point, this devout Christian squared her shoulders and decided that she would, in her words, live “a useful life.” And so, she found another calling: for the next 30 years, she carried missions of mercy into the darkest jungles of South America.

Almost certainly, only a pilot as skilled as Jerrie could have found purchase on the narrow, mud-slicked clearings she flew into, deep in the thickets of the Amazon. She brought food to the natives, and medicine, and education. She planted crops and delivered babies.

And with her trademark joyful smile, she shared the transforming gospel of Christ. She sat beside deathbeds holding on to thin brown hands, and she brought words of comfort, the hope of eternal life.

Between missions, Jerrie was steadily showered with humanitarian awards from governments around the world. In 1981, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Your biggest dream might always be a part of you, even after it has flown beyond your reach.

Jerrie Cobb never lost her bone-deep desire to go into space. In 1998, she dared to hope once again, when NASA announced it would send a senior citizen into space to study the effects of space flight on aging.

Heartened by a flurry of worldwide support, Jerrie spoke to the media. “I’ve thought about it all my life. I will do whatever it takes (to go),” she said, tearing up, “I would give my life to fly in space. I really would. I would have then, and I will now…”

Once again, Jerrie was passed over for a man. Once again, she found comfort and peace in her unyielding faith.

Some promises will only be fulfilled once we have slipped the bonds of this earth.

It might be easy to wonder: why would God pour such a fierce longing into Jerrie’s soul, and then so cruelly withhold the object of that longing?

After venerating some of the greatest heroes of the Bible, the writer of Hebrews penned these lines: “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”

You see – and I don’t say this to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, although the thought does bring tears to my eyes – I believe down to my very core that Jerrie Cobb will touch those stars someday, once she has passed beyond the laws of man and gravity, once she relinquishes the frail limitations of this temporary body.

Can you imagine the joy when that beautiful soul finally blazes across the sky, to the farthest reaches of a galaxy that has ever called to her? Can you feel her laughing delight – and His – when the Creator at last unfurls all of creation at her feet?

For here is a final truth, a promise that Jerrie holds to even today, as an old woman in her waning earthly years.

The disappointments of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glories – and the adventure – that are waiting.

Comments

  1. Crushed says:

    God is a cruel bastard. He has done the same to me, gave me a strong desire to be a wife and mother but has never even allowed me to have a relationship with a man. I’m no longer in child bearing age. No husband. So how’s your f**king God going to make my life so much better?

  2. I once had a dream. I wanted to join the military, be in the navy sailing submarines. But god never answered those prayers and dreams, in fact he gave me autism and i was disqualified from joining. Then I dreamed of being a pro wrestler, my right leg gave out and I never wrestled again. No matter what I dream god takes it away. I want to love and trust him but he constantly destroys my hopes. Should I still believe even when nothing ever happens?

  3. I used to be a Christian and believed the lie. But I have had dreams crushed, I was sexually abused by my father, and I lost my twin brother and a sister within months of each other.

    If there is a God, HE CAN GO FUCK HIMSELF.

    • I’m SO sorry to hear that. I hope that you find the peace you deserve after going through such difficult and unfair circumstances. I can’t even imagine the pain you must feel from all that.

  4. Outside of the typically tight writing we expect from Cathy, this also is powerful due to its truth…not “fact” kind of truth, real truth. Truth that says that you can be the best and work hard and still not “reach the stars.” Truth that states our purpose cannot be completely fulfilled in a life’s span. Truth that promises the glorious life to come will so far exceed our “best life now” that the memory of our earthly efforts will be but a wisp of fog on a hot summer’s morning. Thanks Cathy!

  5. What an awesome story, thanks for bringing Cathy here to share this with us, Tony!

    Inspired.

  6. Cathy…that was amazing. This was my favorite post I’ve ever read – anywhere. I felt it deep in my spirit. Thank you for getting up early to write :) God has given you such an amazing gift. Thank you for using it and sharing it!

  7. Wow, Cathy – you may not usually write ‘devotional’ posts, but you should be doing lots and lots more of posts like this one. I happened to be listening to an embedded song sung by Tiri Te Kenawa from another blog as I was reading your beautifully written story this afternoon. The combination of that glorious voice with this glorious story was simply overwhelming, humbling and deeply moving. Thank you so much for introducing us to this valiant woman. Yet I don’t see God being ‘cruel’ here as another commenter noted. Rather I see the cruelties of life lived on planet earth, filled with fallen, broken, narrow-minded people. GOD didn’t stop the dream, people and timing and generational sin did, as God has ordained human history to be written by US in partnership with him. And most beautifully, I see the hand of a gracious God using this deep disappointment for good, bringing rich blessing into and out of this lost dream of Jerrie’s. Powerful, beautiful, so well done. Thank you so much.

    • Marvelous, Diana! And now I’m slightly jealous of your wonderful soundtrack…

      Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. You are absolutely right. Maybe God let this happen to Jerrie because (as with Job) He knew she would respond with trust and resolve.

      And of course, He knows what awaits her…

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  8. I’ve not heard Jerrie’s story before but your telling brought tears to my eyes. My dreams haven’t been crushed per se but the waiting drags on and I am caught up in the fact that there are no guarantees. But God knows my heart and whether or not these things happen in my lifetime, all will work out for my best and His glory. Thank you, Cathy!

    • Beautifully put! I am so glad this could encourage you. Sometimes we need lovely reminders…one of the many reasons I love the written word.

      Thank you.

  9. Don Hofer says:

    Cathy,
    I am sitting here moved by your writing in ways that I’m not able to share right now. I will say 2 things: 1) I am profoundly disappointed that I am not doing what I thought I was created to do in this world and and desperately impatient to know what He has for me in the life I have left; 2) I am very sad that I didn’t know you well when I lived in Tualatin. I feel so good when I read anything you post on FB and feel like I missed out on something I could have enjoyed.

    • Oh, Don. This truly touches me, and I don’t know what to say.

      I so very much appreciate your kind words about my writing – it thrills me that you find value in it. And I wish I would have known you better, too. I think I was busy having babies, when you were still here!

      I will pray for you, that God will reveal at least part of His special plans with you, to give you courage – and excitement – for the future.

      Thanks so much for commenting…

  10. Great post and I loved all the comments, too. It’s not over until it’s over, and then it’s just the beginning. Hold on to faith.

  11. Wow, Cathy, what an amazing post. You’ve got me cryin’ over here.

    What extremem pleasure it must bring our Creator to see us experience our dreams, whether it be on Earth or in Heaven. I imagine that experiencing our dreams in Heaven with God by our side, and the added benefit of no pain, sin, or rejection, has to be worth the wait if that’s the way God sees fit.

    • Katie, my dear…I can see why T thinks you hung the moon. You both have the same sweet hearts (and the same eloquence.)

      I’m glad you have each other! XO

  12. Great story–GREAT final sentence. True, beautiful, inspiring.

  13. Awesome post, Cathy!

    You know what? I learn something new almost every time I read your posts. I had never heard of Jerrie Cobb (I initially thought she might be your grandmother!), but what a story and testimony.

    God’s ways are higher than ours, and we don’t always get it. (always? do we ever?) I guess the Lord thought it more important to reach those people with her missions of mercy — I’m certain that there was far greater eternal impact there. I love the image of her flying through creation, redeemed, reborn & rejuvenated — though I won’t be surprised if the Lord has flying missions of mercy again “here, there or in the air”.

    Great post!

    • Thanks, Dan!

      I had never heard of Jerrie Cobb, either…and that makes me a little sad! I’m so glad I got to share her story here…she was a hero on many levels.

      While writing this, I thought about how much I’d like Jerrie to take me on a celestial tour, someday. And then I thought I’d probably have to get in line behind the thousands of people she ministered to…

  14. I may have done a little dance after reading this post. Wow! Amazing story and amazing lesson learned from it. Thank you Tony and Cathy!

  15. Oh Cathy…I’m sitting here in my jammies, both boys playing and “The Sword In The Stone” playing in the background, and I’m crying as I read your words. I have been thinking about dreams and vision and direction this week. Thank you so much for your words and sharing Jerrie’s story. Thank you for being you!

  16. This was such a powerful story. Seriously brought tears to my eyes.

  17. Wow…that is probably the best story I have heard in a long time.

    You know what just hit me? We all like to say that verse “His ways are not our ways and his plans are not our plans, His plans are to give us peace and prosper us”. but we only say this verse when we get sick or go through something horrible in life…many of us wouldn’t associate this verse when losing a DREAM, because we feel that our dream WOULD bring peace and prosperity. Crazy! Never thought that before this….

    Great Post Cathy!

    • I love that it resonated with you. (I, too, love when a post makes me see something familiar in a different light.)

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  18. I wrote about the death of a dream three days this week on my blog which comes from the life of David. David wanted to build God a temple but God said no to this. This was when God shared the Davidic Covenant which is the Messiah would come through the lineage of David. So I have learned this lesson in my own life and through the life of David – When God says No to a dream – He will show you a better plan. That better plan might not be easy or seem the best at the time but it will always be a better plan because God is always good.

    Good post and good thoughts.

    • And doesn’t that seem to happen often, in this life?

      One of my fav current worship songs says, “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other…”

      And of course, that’s not just higher and greater than everything else in the universe…it’s “higher and greater” (by far) than my own mind!

      Thank you.

  19. Oh my days, this brought a tear to my eye… God knows what is best for us and we may not always agree with it but like you said “some promises will only be fulfilled once we have slipped the bounds of this earth”

    God bless you for sharing

  20. This was such a powerful essay, Cathy. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. There is so much hope in this and it inspires me. You are awesome!

  21. Such a wonderful post – thanks for sharing it with us. Cathy you are a gifted writer and story-teller and I feel the pain in this article that Jerrie had to deal with all of her life. I think we all at times feel and go through things we can’t understand – the ‘betrayal of a friend’ really hit me – because it’s fresh and actually did happen to me in recent years. It’s an unbelievable pain and doesn’t go away because it involves someone you loved and trusted with information and you felt safe. But I also do believe that not everything can be seen and understood in this lifetime – and that it may be after death that we fully realize all the “whys” involving pain and hurt.

    • So sorry to hear about your situation. I’ve been through that, too…and yes, betrayal does hurt so deeply.

      I’m so glad that God is a very present help through this sometimes very difficult life – and I’m SO glad that it’s all “gonna be worth it,” when we eventually discard the trappings of this life!

      Thanks for sharing your heart.

  22. Wow. Fantastic post. God had some excellent dreams of His own for her life. It is an inspiration to me, that in spite of all the adversity, she still sought to praise the Lord with her life. Excellent post.

  23. First, I love the post.

    I just still wrestle with this because I still think it’s cruel what God is doing in cases like Jerrie’s. I think what God’s allowed to happen to Jerrie is cruel. (Defining cruel not as someone attempting to cause pain but rather the decision to have a lack of relief from the unpleasant situation.) He has a bigger plan, He has a reason for it but that doesn’t mean it’s not cruel.

    But in the cruelty of ONE thing He opened the doors to blessings of thousands upon thousands of people in a way that Jerrie wasn’t intending to go with her life.

    I don’t think to say God was cruel is necessarily impugning God’s nature. I think that cruelty in places we don’t need to be is in essence evidence of His love.

    • You’re right, and I love your thoughtfulness.

      There are things in life that aren’t “fair,” by any stretch of human logical thinking – and that is one of the things I struggle the very most with, in this life.

      Why must we be “refined by fire”? That in itself sounds cruel.

      But I firmly believe that God sees facets of things that we will not see until we join Him, and so I leave the things I don’t understand in His keeping, for now. Just as we humans can’t visualize space-time, I think there are spiritual dimensions and even logical dimensions we can’t see.

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  1. [...] Writing this post kicked me squarely out of my comfort zone. I do not usually write “devotional” posts, but I am so happy to be doing my first one for Tony. Please read it by clicking here. [...]

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