Fingerprints of Grace

My friend Robynn sent me a gift today. It was a series of photos from a book, a lament and liturgy for the death of a dream.

We live in a world that loves to fill up space with stories of seemingly impossible dreams achieved. Our movies, books, and essays tell these stories in striking cinematography and poetic prose. We read these stories as people who are starving. Starving to believe that dreams do come true. Yet, for every dream achieved, there are many that die, even more that are broken.

Broken dreams don’t make for good cinema, but they are the cry of many in our world. The woman trying desperately to get pregnant; the young man dying of cancer, begging to be healed; the mom aching for her wandering child to come home; the asylum seeker desperate for safety; the child reaching out for love; and those of us with seemingly lesser dreams may watch those dreams die and are helpless to revive them. What we dream of, what we long for so deeply does not always come to pass.

What I so wanted has not come to pass…

I read the Liturgy that my friend sent me and I wept. I wept because I have witnessed lost dreams. I wept because I am a part of lost dreams. I wept because witnessing dreams die leaves you broken and vulnerable, unsure of yourself. You no longer trust your well-honed instincts, you question everything. And all too soon, you harden and what used to be dreams turns into apathy. You hate yourself for it, even as you understand how it happened.

But perhaps I wept the most because my dreams were and are too small.

I write this in the fading light of the evening. It is quiet, save the soft murmurs of voices in the next room. The sun reflects off a pine tree outside with an aching beauty.

I think about the hidden graves of broken and dead dreams. It was less than a year ago when I wrote about dreams becoming reality, when I told some of my story of longing and ultimately the fulfillment of a longing. Sadness spreads over me as I remember the joy and anticipation of last summer. Was it so recent? Can things change so quickly? Ask anyone who has watched a dream die and they will nod an emphatic “Yes!” Dreams can die in an instant.

So let me remain tender now to how you would teach me…..let me be tutored by this new disappointment. Let me listen to its holy whisper, that I might release at last these lesser dreams. That I might embrace the better dreams you dream for me, and for your people.

But this I have found in the past and now, in this present time: in the warehouse of lost dreams, in the graveyard of dead dreams, God does not abandon me. I feel his comfort all around, I see his “fingerprints of grace.”

“My history bears his fingerprints of grace…”

And I know that I can rest.

Here in the ruins of my wrecked expectation, let me make this best confession: Not my dreams O Lord, Not my dreams, but yours be done.*


*All quotes are from A Liturgy for the Death of a Dream from Every Moment Holy.

5 thoughts on “Fingerprints of Grace

  1. Thanks Marilyn for this blog and for your honesty and also your hope. Wish we could have met while you guys were here in Istanbul. Carol’s friend in Istanbul, Donna

    On Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 7:56 PM Marilyn R. Gardner wrote:

    > Marilyn posted: ” My friend Robynn sent me a gift today. It was a series > of photos from a book, a lament and liturgy for the death of a dream. We > live in a world that loves to fill up space with stories of seemingly > impossible dreams achieved. Our movies, books, and ess” >


  2. Thank you for this post. My husband and I are repatriating to the States this summer, as well, after being reassigned countries in Africa (Mozambique to Lesotho) last year with MAF. We are now leaving the organization altogether, which was the farthest thing from my mind 17 months ago when the decision was made for us to move. I’m excited for this next chapter of life, however there is still so much grief and loss. I’d love to read that book you referenced (the lament and literary for the death of a dream), but I can’t find it on google or amazon. Can you please clarify the title of the book? Thanks so much. ~Nikki Simpson (Stuart, FL)


  3. Thank you Marilyn and Robyn for sharing these beautiful thoughts. I doubt that anyone could reach the age of 91 without looking back on many “broken dreams.” I know these painful experiences have changed me for the better. God’s grace in my own life enables me to empathize with others who see their dreams and hopes dashed. To be able to come along side and just say how sorry I am that this is so hard. I’m reading Job and see so clearly what “miserable comforters” his friends were! Job says to them, “If only you would be altogether silent!” Sometimes a silent hug helps more than any words.


  4. Dreams, we all have dreams that didn’t materialize. In my case, I view them more as “surprises of grace;” re-directions….although some of those dreams were very dear and leave us lurching for a reason for the change in place or direction.


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