Summary: We come to points in our lives when it appears to be too late to do what we felt called to do. Our problem is that we have expected God to do for us what we would not do ourselves. But the good news is that God is an empowering healer.
“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore – and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load; or does it just explode?”
Langston Hughes, poet of the Harlem Renaissance, spoke out of the frustration of a people who had been waiting for the dream of freedom to come true. He suggested that when you do not get what you earnestly want and desperately need, either that frustration dries you up, shrivels you; or it creates a boiling rage.
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it just explode?
Here we are, near the end of summer. It’s late August, and there isn’t much summer left. Did you begin the season with high hopes about what you would accomplish? Once school was out, what did you think you might do with the extra time? Learn a new skill? Brush up on your sports technique? But now it’s August, it’s the end of summer, and where did the time go? What happened to that dream deferred?
Once the days grew longer, and there was more sunlight, what did you imagine you might do? Get those weeds pulled, plant those vegetables, whip that landscaping into shape? But the burning of the afternoon sun withered not only your garden but also your energies, and here we are at the end of the season. What will you do about that garden? Did it dry up like a raisin in the sun? It’s August, it’s late.
Where are you are in your life? What is to be done about good intentions, never fulfilled? Those ambitions, never completed? What about all those dreams of what you could become and what you might make of your life? And here it is, late, and so many things were never done. Here you are a senior adult, nearly at the end of the lazy hazy days, and dreams deferred are sagging like a heavy load, or maybe exploding in rage.
Somewhere around the year 600 BC the people of Judah woke up to a day of enormous frustration. They had planned so many wonderful things. They had thought they were on the edge of tremendous national prosperity. They had a fine king, Josiah, who had rebuilt the Temple, had refocused the people, and had energized the nation.
But one horrible day, at Megiddo, Josiah and Judah’s army marched out to intercept Necho, the Egyptian pharaoh, on his way to do battle with Babylon. On that day, that terrible day, the dreams of the people of Judah were dashed, as on the plain of Megiddo King Josiah lay dying, his army crushed. Bad as that was, only a short time later, at Carchemish, another battle, this time with Egypt defeated, but the Babylonians stepping in to take over. Judah, with its bright hopes and its worthy ambitions, was now a vassal of Babylon. Defeated. Dried up like the raisin in the sun.
The prophet Jeremiah reports their plaintive cry: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jeremiah, they said, it’s late! We had such high hopes, such fantastic dreams for ourselves! But it’s late! “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Can you feel that in your own life? You’ve done part of your education, but you didn’t do all that well – and if you don’t get into gear right now you will never have the grades for college. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
You’re a parent, and suddenly you see that that child of yours is not a child anymore. Others influence him; there are other sources for her mind to draw on. If you are going to shape that character and guide that heart, it may be too late. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
You’re a man or a woman of a good many years, and you recognize that you have come to a stage in life where there just isn’t plenty of time anymore. When I think about being sixty-seven years old, and so many of the things I once thought I might do, I know I will never do. I am not sure whether I feel disappointment, or pain, or rage. I only know that it’s August in my life, and I sense some frustration. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
What is the word of the Lord for those of us who feel as though our dreams have petered out and our visions clouded over, for we are near the end of the summer’s warmth and feel the first chill winds of decline just ahead? The word of the Lord through Jeremiah offers us first, an analysis of what is wrong; and then, a word of hope for what can yet be done.