Summary: We live with dreams deferred, and act hastily, out of impatience. Either we then go into denial or we try to make do with a substitute. But Christ makes all dreams ever new.
The playwright Lorraine Hansberry asks it: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?"
A dream deferred. A dream deferred is something you’ve put heart and soul into, for a long time, but it’s delayed. It hasn’t come. It’s incomplete. What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?
I purposely brought this Bible to use today. This Bible was presented to me on a special occasion. An occasion that spoke to the dream in my heart. But it also speaks to the dream deferred.
Inscribed inside this Bible are these words: "To Joseph M. Smith, on the occasion of his ordination, From Deer Park Baptist Church, Jan. 5, 1964." You will notice from that that this week I observed the 32nd anniversary of my ordination.
When I was ordained, just a few months after seminary, I had great dreams. I had a strong sense of what I wanted to do and to be for God. I was going to become, among other things, an eloquent preacher, an intellectually respectable teacher, a wise counselor, and a winsome evangelist. Then, at home, I was going to be a faithful husband and a doting father (it was quite obvious to everyone who came to the ordination service that in about three months fatherhood would be thrust upon me). And in addition, I was dreaming about becoming a leader in Baptist ranks, an agent of change for racial justice, a pied piper for young people, and, in my spare time, a writer, a book collector, an organist, and, if memory serves correctly, I was thinking of getting fitted for a suit with a great big red S on the front! Move over, angels, SuperSmith is here!
I have always believed in great dreams. I have always created large plans. You know that from the reports and projections I put out in front of you, year by year. You’ll see it all again in a couple of weeks at annual meeting. Dreams. Plans. Sometimes unrealistic. Often they are not completed. But I have said with the great missionary William Carey, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God,"
But this Bible. I carry it today to remind myself and to tell you that dreams are often deferred. Many of the things I promised myself and my Lord at ordination time have not yet been done. 32 years, and what can I show for it? A dream deferred.
Abram had been living with a dream for a long time. But it had not happened. And Abram was getting worried. He wasn’t getting any younger. How was the dream to be fulfilled? How was the promise to be kept?
There, back in the city of Ur, years earlier, Abram had heard God’s call. "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. J will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing."
A promise and a mission. To be blessed and to be a blessing. But that was all years ago. Abram had set out to gain the blessing and to serve the mission. But now a lot of water has passed over the dam. Now quite a few years had gone by, and-all he had to show for his trouble were many gray hairs and a pair of old worn out traveling shoes!
Abram was now eighty-six years old, but there were no children. How could he become the father of a great nation if there were no children? No blessing and no way to be a blessing to others. How would it be done? How could it be accomplished?
Some of us, too, have set out on long, long journeys. Once upon a time, we set some magnificent goals for ourselves. Long-term goals, great goals. When we started, the goal seemed a long way off, but not impossible. The hill seemed steep but not insurmountable. A couple of our church’s college students have enrolled in courses of study where everything is mapped out, from the freshmen year, right on through a medical degree. Seven or eight years of work toward a goal. Fantastic to be young and to be able to think that way! I pray they are able to maintain their drive, all the way through.
But do you remember? Do you remember having goals like that? Do you recall feeling the stirrings of God’s Spirit, and you thought God was going to do something great in you? You even thought you might do something great for God? But the years have past. And what has happened to the dream? Where are the goals? Is it too late now to get back on track?