The Loss of a Dream (Day 1 from an unttaled collection)
". . . though now for a little while, if need be, you have grieved by various trials . . ."
1Peter 1:16, NKJV
EVERYONE’S GONE HOME for the day, I’ve locked up, and now find myself sitting in my office, alone, staring down at the day’s sales. We closed in the red again. As I had done so many nights before I began to walk through the store praying in each department, but tonight was different, I fell on my face before the Lord sobbing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. The store was failing, and I would have to make a decision soon, we just couldn’t continue much longer; it’s been almost three years now. I have tried so hard to follow his direction, but my dream was becoming a nightmare. I believed I was standing on God’s word and seeking his guidance, yet every decision I made was coming into question. I had been told I was walking in fear, not faith and that I just need to trust God. I thought I had been, but with each late payment, and unable to purchase new products the inventory was growing smaller, every day I could feel my confidence slipping away.
When we open I told the girls that this was to be a ministry and not just a Christian Book Store. We kept a journal of what God was doing through the store; it would give me such encouragement to read it after everyone had gone home, but not tonight. The only reason we were still open was that God had laid it on the hearts of our customers to give to this ministry. Many would not take their change after their purchases, others stopped in with a check to say thank you, hoping it would help in some small way.
I kept telling myself I’d done everything the Lord had laid on my heart to do, but it wasn’t enough to save the store. The decision had been made, the closing sale was over, and now the daunting task of distributing the last of the inventory was at hand. I made my final walk through the store and found myself sitting in the rocker beside the fireplace reading the ministry journal we had kept. I thought there were no more tears to shed, but as I read through the pages I could still see the lives we had touched and the prayers that were answered. These were not just words written down in a book they were real people, with real needs, and God had used our little store to make a difference in their lives, but that was all over now. I brushed the tears from my cheeks; it was time to get started. As I ran my hands across the books, holding each one, I remembered the joy I experienced when the Lord taught me how to read. It was so like him to use what had defeated me as a child to form the dreams of my future. I thought of my mother who had passed away in March of 2006. She would come over every Saturday to help me in the store. I never told her how much I had looked forward to that time. I forced myself to return to the task at hand and continued with packing up the books I would donate to her church library in my mother’s name. She loved working as a librarian and in the last few years had given her life to the Lord and had found comfort in her church. When I placed the last book in the box I felt as if I was placing my memories, hopes, and dreams with it. I worked in the store for hours gathering items I was donating to the community. As I stood at the display of Bibles a flood of emotion swept over me, it was his word that sustained me, that had turned a victim and a survivor into an overcomer. It was in his word that I realized he had a plan for my life to give me hope and a future. I believed it was this store, I had put all my hopes and dreams into it and now it was gone. After I finished the downstairs it was time to move upstairs to our ministry rooms. I had believed the Lord had led me to set up a prayer and classroom as well the Holy of Holies to the Tabernacle as an outreach to the community. We had had some wonderful time of ministry in the upper rooms, the presence of the Lord had been felt there as lives had been touched and changed. As I rounded the stairs I came face to face with the picture of Forgiven my mother had donated to the store. I leaned on the wall then felt myself sliding down until I sat on the steps crying. I just couldn’t see how anyone could forgive me, I had made a promise to my family that this store would be there when we retired, to the community that our doors would always be open, but most of all to the Lord that it would be his ministry to touch the lives of all who entered in. All I could utter through my tears was I’m sorry, over and over again, feeling totally overcome with despair.
With each box, I packed a part of me went inside until I felt there was nothing else to give. We were open just four and half years when I made the decision to close. It was the hardest decision I ever made, there had been unforeseen circumstances we just couldn’t recover from. When I closed the door for the last time I felt such complete emptiness. In my mind, I had failed in the ministry God had entrusted to me, and I couldn’t see him, or anyone else, ever trust me again.
It’s very important for you to understand I had not lost my faith in God, but in myself. I did not feel his presence with me. My spiritual ears had grown silent to his voice. I couldn’t pray, or read the word. All I could do was ask him not to let me go. Weeks turned into months as the battle within me pulled me deeper into a state of depression. My family thought it was just because I lost the store, but it was more than that. How could I explain to them it was the death of yet another dream, and with it, I felt a part of me was fighting for my life? I had been a dreamer all my life, but I told myself never again. I had been hiding behind a façade for months now when in reality I had been shaken to the very essence of who I was. I had lost all faith in myself; in my ability to hear God’s voice or to follow his guidance. I was as empty inside as the building that once held my dream. I felt as though God had shaken and emptied everything that made me who I was, and I didn’t understand.