When Reality Doesn’t Match Up With Your Dreams

Written By Sean Tong, England


Through the tiny slit of the curtain, the baying fans coalesced into one voice commanding that we come back on stage. It was a frenzy. The floor began to thump with the incessant pounding of feet declaring their need for more. I held back a few moments to bask in my success. Then I calmly walked on stage, grabbed my Fender Mustang guitar, and enjoyed the overflowing joy of the crowd as I struck the first staccato chords of the encore.

I wish.

Since I first caught the primal energy of the band Nirvana, I had wanted, nay, longed to be on a stage with a guitar whipping a crowd into a stage-diving, beer-flinging, arm-waving sea of joy.

Instead, I find myself in a normal nine-to-five job. In a normal town. In a normal life. Is there any purpose to this? What is life for if I can’t spend my days rocking it out at the world’s greatest rock festivals? This wasn’t the life I had hoped for. But the need for a stable job, lack of a drummer (why are drummers so hard to find?), and a growing desire to stay in my local church precluded that from ever happening.

Perhaps you feel a sense of unfulfillment too. Life may not be all that you were expecting. That dream career with a big fat salary and excellent pension fund never materialized. That exceptionally beautiful/handsome spouse never showed up. You are just waiting for life to. . . happen.

So, what is the point? What are we to do?

One of the Pharisees once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus’ reply?

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. And also we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is our purpose. That is what we are to do. These two things do not sound particularly appealing or exciting, but they are better, more beautiful, and longer lasting than any life as a rock star, award-winning actor, or sports personality. Indeed, James Bond author Ian Fleming was once asked what it was like to be successful. “Ashes, dear boy, ashes,” came his despondent reply.

It’s been a journey in learning to lay down my dreams and obey God’s commands, but God has worked wonderfully in my life so that I am currently content. He has given me a wonderful (though at times frustrating and annoying) church family to love and enjoy. I am fulfilled despite the lack of loving adoration from a rock concert crowd. Spending time with others in my church is where I get my contentment—from serving them as I serve Him. Getting to share the joys and disappointments of everyday life with my church family is what I enjoy and long for now.

Loving our neighbor doesn’t have to show itself in extraordinary ways. This purpose in our lives doesn’t have to (though it definitely might) involve something dramatic and outlandish. We don’t have to be a famous preacher with book sales through the roof. We don’t have to start organizations that will feed half the world’s poor. We don’t have to be the best at everything at church.

So, what does this love look like?

It looks like a humble life that seeks to serve God and others. This will likely be in a variety of ways, but it can be as simple as helping others at church. Offering lifts to the elderly, sharing your home with others, reading the Bible and praying with others, cooking meals for those who are ill, or just sitting down with someone over a cup of tea.

We don’t have to despair with our lot—we do have a purpose. And even work hours (that nine-to-five spent not performing rock songs) provides opportunities for me to obey this command. The joy in helping others in their work and sharing life with them is truly more meaningful than any response from a killer distorted power chord.


3 replies
  1. Lienhard
    Lienhard says:

    But when rhe essential has been raken away? My husband died 11 years ago leaving me ti take care of our orphan son alone! It is very hard to renounce to the dream of a normal family…

  2. Georgia
    Georgia says:

    Thank you for this! I have been struggling for 12-plus years with an unfulfilled dream. This article gave me comfort.


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