The great poet Langston Hughes wrote a poem titled “A Dream Deferred.” It is one of my favorites, not because it is short and quick, but because of the images it stirs in my mind and how it points to a life full of possibilities. In his poem, Hughes questions the value of waiting for the realization of a dream. He gives just two options: does the dream turn into something we don’t want, or does it “explode” into more than we could have imagined? I like to think that, when we commit to a journey God designs for us, our dreams will explode into a shower of blessings, for “anyone who finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” In his very first production blog for When Calls the Heart, Brian Bird prayed that “the audience will fall in love with and commit to going on the journey…with us.” I doubt he imagined the explosion of blessing that would follow this journey.
As I traveled back to where this series began, to the very first episode of season 1, I fell in love all over again with Jack, Elizabeth, and Abigail. Within the first few minutes of the episode, I realized that they each have been placed on a personal journey that will eventually transform them. As the nuances of their paths begin to unfold in that first episode, we also discover that there are unforeseen events that each require them to wait for the explosion of blessings.
Elizabeth chose her life path: to teach in a small coal-mining town and give her students brighter futures; however, the circumstances she must face render her powerless until she learns to commit to a journey she did not envision. Instead of teaching her students that “knowledge itself is power” by instilling a solid understanding of classroom decorum and a mastery of English grammar, she finds her students running out the door and down the street in the middle of the first day of lessons. How will she tackle such unruly behavior? In Elizabeth’s case, she must commit to a life in which all her fancy education pales in comparison to the knowledge of pain, heartache, and devastation that her students have experienced. She swallows her pride and allows her students to become her teachers. She learns that levity, laughter, and love for her students are more powerful than all the head-knowledge she gained in her fancy teacher education courses, and the blessings begin to trickle down. Though the opening of her journey is far-removed from what she imagined, she commits to following wherever it leads.
Jack also thought he had chosen a solid and praise-worthy life. He was headed to
Cape Fullerton to chase “pirates and whiskey-runners.” What eager young Mountie doesn’t aspire to catch all the bad guys? That is a very noble pursuit. Why, then, would God divert him to a sleepy little town like Coal Valley? Remember, to see a shower of blessing we must often let go of our own plans. Yet, Jack tries to hold on with a vengeance. Even though he sees a church that burned down suspiciously, a shady mine operation that involves the deaths of 46 men, and as many grieving widows searching for justice, he just can’t seem to see his purpose. He clenches his fists tight, even while he attempts to help the town through tragedy. Letting go of those dreams so dear to our hearts is difficult, but the blessing is incomparable to anything we could plan for ourselves. When Jack finally gives in, albeit reluctantly, he sees little blessings bloom as well, this time in the form of a tentative friendship with a feisty young school teacher.
So who do we truly want to be: an Elizabeth who stumbles over pride or a Jack who holds too tight to his own plans? I suggest we really want neither. We want to be an Abigail. In the midst of a well-planned and blessed life, Abigail’s world crashes down around her. The dreams she built with her husband and son are buried in the rubble of a mine collapse, yet she chooses to face it head on. Instead of clenching her fists to fight with God, she accepts that her life has changed forever. She grieves. She hurts.
But she continues to look outside of herself and focus on others. She opens her palms wide, arms outstretched, to support, encourage, and guide the struggling teacher and the stubborn Mountie. In her commitment to love others and continue following God’s plan for her life, she steps into a new life of blessing and purpose.
And so, I suggest we commit to this journey, that we surrender our plans to God for His sake. For when we do, though they might seem deferred for much longer than we like, the dreams He has for us will inevitably explode like flashing fireworks and rain softly on us and those to whom who have stretched out our arms.