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Overcoming Life's Disappointments

  1The Man Who Dared to DreamWhat happens to a dream deferred?Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?Langston Hughes, “Harlem”In these lines, the poet Langston Hughes wonders what happens to dreams that don’t come true. I wonder what happens to the dreamer. How do people cope with the realization that important dimensions of their lives will not turn out as they hoped they would? A person’s marriage isn’t all he or she anticipated. Someone doesn’t get the promotion or the recognition he had set his heart on. Many of us look at the world and see two groups of people, winners and losers: those who get what they want out of life and those who don’t. But in reality life is more complicated than that. Nobody gets everything he or she yearns for. I look at the world and see three sorts of people: those who dream boldly even as they realize that a lot of their dreams will not come true; those who dream more modestly and fear that even their modest dreams may not be realized; and those who are afraid to dream at all, lest they be disappointed. I would wish for more people who dreamed boldly and trusted their powers of resilience to see them through the inevitable disappointments.History is written by winners, so most history books are about people who win. Most biographies, excluding works of pure scholarship, are meant to inspire as much as to inform, so they focus on a person’s successes. But in real life, even the most successful people see some of their efforts fail and even the greatest of people learn to deal with failure, rejection, bereavement, and serious illness.The lessons of this book will come in large part from examining the life of one of the most influential people who ever lived, Moses, the hero of the Bible, the man who brought God’s word down to earth from the mountaintop. When we think of Moses, we think of his triumphs: leading the Israelites out of slavery, splitting the Red Sea, ascending Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the law. But Moses was a man who knew frustration and failure in his public and personal life at least as often and as deeply as he knew fulfillment, and we, whose lives are also a mix of fulfillment and disappointment, can learn from his experiences. If he could overcome his monumental disappointments, we can learn to overcome ours.What can we learn from Moses’ story to help my congregant who is overlooked for a promotion or the elderly man or woman whose children and grandchildren ignore him or her? What can I learn from Moses to share with all the wives and husbands who find it hard to feel affectionate toward a mate who takes them for granted? Let us turn to the story of Moses, the man who dared to dream, to see what lessons it reveals.Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel has written in Messengers of God that Moses was “the most solitary and the most powerful hero in biblical history . . . the man who changed the course of history by himself. After him, nothing was the same again.” He goes on: “His passion for social justice, his struggle for national liberation, his triumphs and disappointments, his poetic inspiration, his gifts as a strategist and his organizational genius, his complex relationship with God and God’s people . . . his efforts to reconcile the law with compassion, authority with integrity—no individual ever, anywhere accomplished so much for so many people in so many domains. His influence is boundless.” The teachings of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament would be unintelligible unless read against the background of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. The revelation to Muhammad at the inception of Islam assumes that the earlier revelation to Moses contained the authentic words of God. Even such secular prophets as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud d

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