Today’s post is brought to you by one of my very favorites. Cathy has become a great friend from when I stumbled across her site and we connected immediately through our mutual love of reading. She blogs at Windows and Paper Walls about her fascination with literature, learning and all geeky things science related. She’s thoughtful, well-spoken and even sometimes pretends she’s from the hood (inside Twitter joke, if you aren’t tracking). I absolutely love her thoughtful post today. I hope you do to.
We all have dreams. Whether we are the type to shout our passions to the world or hold them quietly in our hearts, we all have desires burning deep inside.
But this broken world can be a harsh habitat, one that cares nothing for our best-laid plans, our bucket lists. So what do we do when our fondest dream doesn’t come to pass?
Here’s an inspiring true story.
As a little girl, growing up on the grassland plains of Oklahoma in the 1930’s, Jerrie Cobb watched her pilot father take to the skies and she felt a stirring in her soul, a sealing of her fate.
By the age of 16, Jerrie was performing stunts over the cornfields of the Great Plains in a Piper Cub. By 19, she was giving flying lessons to grown men. At night, she sometimes slept underneath the wings of her plane, dreaming of the stars that whispered her destiny into the black sky.
Two years later, Jerrie was flying around the world, delivering planes to troops in the U.S. Air Force.
And the scrappy girl from Oklahoma just kept on coming, like a hurricane. She set world records for speed, distance, and absolute altitude. When she became the first woman to ever fly in the world’s largest air exposition in Paris, her fellow (male) pilots named her Pilot of the Year. Life Magazine called her “one of the most important young people in the United States.”
But ever since those childhood nights under the stars, Jerrie had longed for a wilder and bluer yonder. And shortly after she turned thirty, she became the first woman to join America’s fledgling astronaut program, which was gearing up for its first manned spaceflight.
Jerrie easily passed all the tests and started training with the men and, as usual, she was better than most of them. There was just one problem.
American authorities were dead-set against allowing women to actually fly on their rockets.
Jerrie knew she deserved a spot on a spaceflight, and she began arguing her case up the ranks of stubborn government officials. When her file finally landed on the desk of the Vice President of the United States, she thought she had a shot.
But Lyndon Johnson picked up Jerrie’s file, glanced through it, and scribbled across it, “Let’s stop this now.”
And just like that, her dream was over. Jerrie Cobb, one of the best airmen in the world, would never travel a single inch on a rocket ship.
We’ve all known the powerful sting of ordinary disappointments: a friend’s betrayal, a lost opportunity, unrequited love.
But what do you do when your soul is truly crushed?
- The doctor sits across a desk from you and reveals that your wife’s womb is never going to hold a baby
- You toil and save for decades, pouring all your efforts into the goal of having your own business; and then in a few minutes of chaos in financial systems half a world away, all you’ve saved for is ripped from your grasp.
- The second most powerful man in the world picks up the folder that contains everything you’ve ever dreamed of and worked for all your life, and writes four ugly words across it. Let’s Stop This Now.
Here are a few truths I pulled from the rest of Jerrie Cobb’s story – because her story didn’t end with the sweep of an executive pen.
Only God’s wisdom is infinite – and He has a work for you to do.
I have no doubt that Jerrie deeply mourned her loss. But at some point, this devout Christian squared her shoulders and decided that she would, in her words, live “a useful life.” And so, she found another calling: for the next 30 years, she carried missions of mercy into the darkest jungles of South America.
Almost certainly, only a pilot as skilled as Jerrie could have found purchase on the narrow, mud-slicked clearings she flew into, deep in the thickets of the Amazon. She brought food to the natives, and medicine, and education. She planted crops and delivered babies.
And with her trademark joyful smile, she shared the transforming gospel of Christ. She sat beside deathbeds holding on to thin brown hands, and she brought words of comfort, the hope of eternal life.
Between missions, Jerrie was steadily showered with humanitarian awards from governments around the world. In 1981, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Your biggest dream might always be a part of you, even after it has flown beyond your reach.
Jerrie Cobb never lost her bone-deep desire to go into space. In 1998, she dared to hope once again, when NASA announced it would send a senior citizen into space to study the effects of space flight on aging.
Heartened by a flurry of worldwide support, Jerrie spoke to the media. “I’ve thought about it all my life. I will do whatever it takes (to go),” she said, tearing up, “I would give my life to fly in space. I really would. I would have then, and I will now…”
Once again, Jerrie was passed over for a man. Once again, she found comfort and peace in her unyielding faith.
Some promises will only be fulfilled once we have slipped the bonds of this earth.
It might be easy to wonder: why would God pour such a fierce longing into Jerrie’s soul, and then so cruelly withhold the object of that longing?
After venerating some of the greatest heroes of the Bible, the writer of Hebrews penned these lines: “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
You see – and I don’t say this to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, although the thought does bring tears to my eyes – I believe down to my very core that Jerrie Cobb will touch those stars someday, once she has passed beyond the laws of man and gravity, once she relinquishes the frail limitations of this temporary body.
Can you imagine the joy when that beautiful soul finally blazes across the sky, to the farthest reaches of a galaxy that has ever called to her? Can you feel her laughing delight – and His – when the Creator at last unfurls all of creation at her feet?
For here is a final truth, a promise that Jerrie holds to even today, as an old woman in her waning earthly years.
The disappointments of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glories – and the adventure – that are waiting.