10.27.2023 – Dreams, Disillusionment, and Duty

From a long time ago

Becky and I were with friends not long ago and one of them, a retired teacher, talked about how much she loved her students and thrilled at their learning, but how she had grown so weary of “teaching to the test” and the seemingly endless stream of forms and reports demanding time she might otherwise have invested in actual teaching. She is glad to be retired. Our friend’s disillusionment with the state of her profession is something we’ve heard dozens of times from other teachers.  We also hear it from doctors and nurses tired of the practice of medicine dictated by the demands of the insurance company rather than the needs of the patient, and, yes, from pastors who feel as if they are spending more time worrying about balancing the church budget or answering critical emails than preaching the word or praying with the people.

I don’t know if this sense of dissonance between dreams once dreamed and reality now lived is more than it was in the past, but we don’t live in the past; we live in a present marked by much disharmony – dreams dashed by disillusionment.

A few thoughts:

First, too often do we hear friends, maybe ourselves, speaking words of regret or sorrow about the reality of their profession or trade to dismiss it as just more whining in our age of complaint.

Sometimes, though, we complain because the dreams that drew us to teaching or medicine or pastoring were more fantasy than dream.  I don’t know about teachers or doctors, but I know too well that some pastors answered a call to a fantasy world in which they are savior of all racing from parishioner crisis to parishioner crisis. or dispenser of life advice ensconced in their book-lined study waiting for petitioners seeking their wisdom.  The ensuing nightmare was more the result of their initial delusion than of disillusion born of a broken reality.

We must probe our delusions before we are able to resolve our disillusion.

This is an age of broken reality, however. Forms completed can be more important than knowledge gained. A dollar saved can be more valuable than an illness treated. A sermon critiqued is preferred to truth received. Called to teach, heal, or preach, our vocational lives are more frustration than fulfillment.

“I’m so glad I retired,” we say to our younger colleagues who came to us looking for encouragement.

Dreams and disillusionment – at times just one more complaint in our complaint-addicted world. At other times the sad reality of the world in which we live.

The final alliterative word in the title’s trilogy of words is duty.  The call to duty is not meant to silence real concern or deny the need to change and to be agents of change.  Discouraged by our own delusions, or disillusioned in a world devoid of worthy dreams, duty requires of us that we still do the hard work we were called to do.  We figure out how to teach when the system demands completed forms.  We bring health and healing when the insurance company wants to deny benefits. We preach the word in season and out.

Thank God for the dreams he gives. Lord, protect us from our fantasies and the delusions we harbor. Encourage us when we are disillusioned – discouraged by the reality of our broken world and broken selves. Empower us to do the duty required by the dreams we dreamed even when we are challenged by the reality we live.