My first boyfriend was way older than he should have been. Our relationship was the product of our school system including the 8th grade into the High School; he was a senior and I was an 8th grader.  Yes, there have been scarier age differences–but after working with Jr. High and High School students for over a decade–let me tell you, my mom was right to be concerned. She only let us continue “going out” because he didn’t have a license, which meant whatever actual “going out” we were going to do, would have to include her (go mom!).

Alas, my journey with the “senior boyfriend,”  however, was cut short, just over two months later, when I couldn’t handle his flirting with other girls any longer. So I “dumped” him at a youth retreat.  Red faced, he went back to playing some crazy game, and I ran teary-eyed to the bathroom, my girlfriends in tow. By the end of the night, he was giving me sad looks across the room, and I was feeling guilty for breaking his heart.

The retreat ended, and back at school my feminist gym teacher gave me a high-five for breaking up with “the senior.” The only problem was that I hadn’t really broken up with him.  I told him the usual “let’s just be friends” and instead of being a turn-off, he took it as a way back into my heart.  Every day for a month after the “break-up,” he would come to my locker and pass me notes between class, begging me to take him back. My 8th grade heart still cared about him, but I knew we didn’t have “a future.”

Finally, one day I came home from school upset.  My mom knew I was still holding on to the relationship and I was having a hard time letting go. She made a cup of tea while I told her the “woes” of my day which mainly involved “the senior.”  I said “Mom, I feel so bad but I know I can’t go out with him again.”

We sat down at the dinning room table, and over her steaming cup of tea, she told me something that I am still learning now, seventeen years later. She said:

Melissa, what happens when you take a handful of sand and hold on to it really tightly?”

“All the sand runs through your fingers.”  Growing up near the ocean, I knew this.

“In life you have to hold people and the things you really want, as if they are sand,” she said. “You have to hold them with an open hand, and allow God to either put them in you hand or take them out in His timing.  If you hold on too tightly, you will surely lose them–but if you keep your hands open and trust God, He will give you what is truly best for you.”

I had to let go of “the senior.” I had to trust that God’s plan was good. I had to trust that by letting go of my first boyfriend, I was opening myself up to new opportunities and relationships in my future. And, as I was only fourteen, my mom was very right!

But now, so many years later, my mom is still right.

Recently I have been reminded to think of the things in my life as sand.  I have found myself over the past two weeks, wrestling and holding on tightly to a dream that I have had since I was eighteen. A dream, I am finding, that is just not meant to be.

In a culture where we were raised to believe that you can do anything, and nothing is impossible if you try, this is hard to accept.

But what if our dreams for ourselves aren’t the right dreams? 

Maybe they are good dreams–even ones that help people–but what if they aren’t the best dreams? The dreams that would truly fulfill how we are wired and gifted?

What if, by holding on to a lesser dream, I am losing both it and the dream I am meant to go after?

I have been trying to picture my dream as if it is sand in the palm of my hand. Can I release it?  Can I trust that God will give me a new dream? the best dream?