Life / Refined by Fire

Refined by Fire: When your dreams die | Grace Thornton


Photo c/o Alex Wolf

Grace Thornton is a freelance journalist and author of the book “I Don’t Wait Anymore: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure for You.” She grew up in Mississippi but lived in England and the Middle East before landing in Alabama for now. She blogs about travel, life and faith at Grace for the Road.

As a kid, I was quiet. Peaceable. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t aggressive. And I definitely wouldn’t say I was confident. But inside me there was a deep-set determination of just punch me — you won’t break me. I think I got that from my mom.

When I broke my arm badly at 12 and they had to set the bone, I wrapped my toes around the foot of the bed to keep from screaming — and didn’t. I broke a thumbnail once in a high school sports team tryout because I’d used bad form, but I covered the blood and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want the coach to know.

It won’t break me. I can push through it.

Then just before I turned 24, my college boyfriend and I broke up. He’d been one of my best friends before we had started dating. I thought we’d get married. I was wrong.

And I shattered.

On the outside, I was getting a new haircut, blaring Kelly Clarkson songs and booking trips to Mexico while the broken pieces of my heart just lay there for the world to see. I was coping. Pushing through.

But I knew this one was different.

This one was someone I loved, sure … and that hurt. But it was also my life plan, every expectation I’d had since I was a kid. My dreams broke. And no cast, no willpower was going to fix that.

Whether I stopped long enough to admit it or not, this was a game changer. It wasn’t that I just needed to push through it until it got better … this was my new season. And slowly I began to see … I’d never seen the dreams I had (like marriage and a family after college) as a good thing that might happen one day, God willing.

They weren’t negotiable. I’d expected them. Just as we expect a bone will heal or a nail will grow back, I had expectations that my dreams would happen one day.

And when they didn’t … suddenly I had a lot of questions.

I started out with, “how can I make the best of this until it all works out?” and slowly moved to “how can I help make this work out faster?” I went on some blind dates. I threw myself into my career. I made good friends who liked to go places and do things, and along the way I tried to meet people.

None of those were bad.

But it took a while for the questions to boil down to the one that really mattered, the one that got to the heart of where I was, of who I was.

“If what I want never happens — am I okay with that?” Did it make me less? Would it mean I’d have a life that’s just okay, not the best? Does it mean that the God I had always believed in showed up for other people, not for me?

One day, with all the shattered pieces of my heart in my hands, I asked God those questions. I’d heard when I was a teenager that God would bring the right one would come along if I’d just wait. Those words were loud in my head.

But as I let them fade, I remembered other words, words that hadn’t been said nearly as much as I wish they had — or maybe they were, and I just didn’t hear them. They sounded cliché.

God is enough. He’s all you need.

It sounds like the kind of thing you say to somebody when you don’t have anything else to say. Seriously — He’s enough even if I’m single for life? Enough if I don’t have kids? Enough to make life feel like it’s not a consolation prize? If the God of the Bible is true, then those things are true too — He says them all. That other thing — the one about waiting for the right one — He didn’t say that.

He said I’m love. I’m peace. And I’ll be everything you could ever need.

And as time went by, as I got to know Him, it was true — so true that a day came that I said aloud … I’m glad I broke. I’m glad my dreams broke. I finally had a space where I could give God everything and let Him write a narrative for my life without boundaries, without being boxed in by the dreams I’d drawn in permanent ink.

He needed a blank page. And if there had never been one, if I had never let go of my iron-fisted grip on what I thought was best, I never would’ve seen what life was supposed to be.

Good. It’s supposed to be good. And it doesn’t always look like what we have in mind.





2 comments on “Refined by Fire: When your dreams die | Grace Thornton”

  1. Thank you for this. My husband just died, leaving me a widow at age 24. I’m looking at the blank page of my life and trying to figure out what my life will look like without all the dreams we built together, but I believe God has a plan for my life that’s better than what I can imagine right now.

    1. Hi Meg,

      Wow, I’m really sad to hear about your husband’s passing. I sometimes wonder what would happen if my husband passes suddenly and leaves me a widow (he is in law enforcement). This past year, I studied the book of John through Bible Study Fellowship (BSF, I highly recommend!!!). One lesson I cherish was about verse John 19:30, when Jesus took his last breath and said, “It is finished.” Jesus came to earth for a specific purpose, and when he was done, he breathed his last breath. I learned that we will not leave earth a minute sooner or later than we are supposed to. God knows the purpose he has in store for us, and when it’s finished, we will join him. You don’t have to figure everything out about your future, just set your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith. Know that I am encouraged by your faith!

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