Ever experienced a loss so HUGE and unexpected it rocked you to your core?  Doesn’t matter if it was a big deal to anybody else? It was YOUR big deal…YOUR dream…YOUR beautiful vision—and it crumbled. Then what? Check out my sad and strangely joyful personal story:

When the Dream Doesn’t Happen: Disappointment’s Gifts

I’m all good now, but a few weeks back I was riding an emotional rollercoaster.  I felt my stomach somewhere up near my throat and it took a minute to walk steadily again.

You see, my wife (and all-time favorite travel companion) Aladrian and I were scheduled to depart for a long-planned dream vacation to South Africa.

Travel—to almost anywhere at all—is my FAVORITE thing. But travel to somewhere as exotic and staggeringly beautiful as Cape Town had me buzzed with anticipation.  I could hardly sleep nights thinking of the amazing stuff we would do, and the memories we were going to make by doing them.

I knew we’d take long romantic walks to nowhere in particular. We’d outrageously flirt with each other in the golden sunshine. I’d swim by the hour in the impossibly emerald-colored waters, as Aladrian cheers me on from her chaise lounge shaded by the two perfect palm trees.  And, we’d slow dance by moonlight on the sugary sand just outside our door.  I could see it all and each new day brought me closer to actually living that vision.

But sadly, it was not to be.

Thirty minutes before leaving home for the airport, we discovered that a travel document required for the trip had simply vanished. Yes, like it had actually up and walked away by itself.

Frantic, we searched everywhere twice, then twice more.  We made phone calls and tried desperate bargaining with airlines and government agencies—and even with God.

And, by the time our scheduled flight departed (and the next two as well) it was clear we were not going to Cape Town.  No wandering walks or public flirtations.  No tranquil backstroking in the crystalline seas, or gathering each other up and swaying to our own private melody underneath the stars.

That’s when somebody hit ON switch and the rollercoaster ride began.

For the next 72 hours, all the sadness and disappointment and guilt ebbed and flowed wildly. I was ashamed of myself for feeling annoyed (OK, furious), and for not being on top of the paperwork or my emotions or anything else, it seemed.

And, with people suffering from wars and tsunamis and starvation and divorce and bereavement and crippling illness, I couldn’t believe I was tripping so hard about the loss of a mere vacation?

But to me it wasn’t just a vacation.  I was tripping about the loss of an incredibly beautiful dream (almost) come true, a seductive, unparalleled romantic adventure not to be.  It was the equivalent of Lil’ Ronn’s begged-for present, wrapped enticingly and waiting under the tree for days and days. Now it’s Christmas morning and I’ve excitedly torn the box open and discovered that all along it had been empty.

I was crushed and so was Aladrian.  Neither of us knew what to say or how to summon the strength to say it, if we had known. Now I had a new vision of our coming days: awkward silence, weary self-absorption, then too many failed attempts to lift each other’s spirit—or sadly, no attempts at all.  Not a beautiful vision at all.

Oddly, that is NOT what happened at all. Something strange and unexpected did instead.  Rather than our traumatized emotions tempting us to distance ourselves, Aladrian and I were drawn toward each other.  We somehow became each others’ haven and silent support.  We rode the rollercoaster together, trusting it was God operating it and that He knew what the heck he was doing.

Following our initial, shell-shocked emotional reactions, we soon experienced some other feelings that we had not counted on…emotions that were strange, delicious, amazingly unexpected: acceptance, contentment, and an overwhelming affection for and intimacy with each other I would not have imagined possible.

Somehow, we felt it was opportunity to stroke and caress each other’s sadness and disappointment, more than to wallow in our own. By God’s grace, we were truly feeling each other, even carrying each other, for these rain-drenched days at home—not in a sun-kissed paradise around the world.

Yes, Aladrian and I missed out on Cape Town this time. God willing, we’ll make it there soon.  But honestly, I wouldn’t trade anything for that week of tears and frustration.  It’s a week that gave way to joke-telling, jazz-playing, and secret-sharing, soul touching, laughter and that intimate fellowship that’s shared between two similarly broken-hearted people.

After all, I was with my favorite travel companion of all.  Nothing else seemed to matter as much.

Dr Ronn Elmore

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  1. Simply beautiful.

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