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In search of the impossible dream

My favorite song within my favorite play, “Man of La Mancha.” is “Impossible Dream.”

The story is loosely based on “Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes about an old man who reads books on knights and chivalry. He self-proclaims himself a knight and takes the name, Don Quixote de La Mancha, and goes off to pursue noble quests with his faithful squire, Sancho.

They spot a windmill and mistake it for a four-armed giant. Quixote mistakes a rundown inn for a castle. Within that castle, Quixote meets a waitress, Aldonza, a woman who has seen more than her share of hard times. Quixote changes Aldonza’s name to Dulcinea, which means “sweetness of a tender lover.” For Don Quixote, Dulcinea is a sweet princess with whom he pledges his life to defend her honor.

So, the main characters are an old man with visions of impossible dreams pledging his undying love to a woman who once had big dreams but settled for much less. Two depressing answers to the question, “What happens to our big dreams?”

For some the answer is “mission accomplished” and they are living the dream now. For others, big dreams were compromised by the oftentimes harsh reality of daily living.

On Mother’s Day we honor our mothers. Raising a child can certainly be described as the fulfillment of a big dream. But children also force us to face certain realities and frustrations as well. Becoming a parent is a mixed blessing filled with amazing opportunities and awe-inspiring moments as well as painful experiences and heartbreak.

Reality competes with our dreams. Microbiologists end up delivering mail. Pastors sell stocks and bonds. Geniuses end up behind bars. Healthy people gain 180 pounds. Teachers end up selling insurance. Fun and exciting people end up bolted to the security of their own homes.

But our dreams do not have to die, even when reality seems to have the upper hand. Big dreams may be put aside temporarily or altered, but giving them up was never God’s plan for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

God has dreams and plans for your future, and the pain you experience may be a part of that future, but only a part. When you pray, God will listen, and if you look for God in earnest, you will find Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn your back on evil. Then you will gain renewed health and vitality.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Even during tragedy and disappointment, God is in control. If you learn to trust God, you will gain the renewed health and vitality you need to pursue those dreams.

Near the end of the play, Don Quixote is at home, lying in bed, near death, his dreams shattered. Sancho tries to cheer him up, but the old man says his knightly career was just a dream. Aldonza forces her way into the old man’s bedroom to visit because she can no longer bear to be anyone but Dulcinea. When he does not recognize her, she helps him remember.

She says, “Once you found a girl and called her Dulcinea. When you spoke the name, an angel seemed to whisper, Dulcinea. Won’t you please bring back the dream of Dulcinea? Won’t you bring me back the bright and shining glory of Dulcinea?”

The old man whispers, “Perhaps it was not a dream.”

Alas, this story must be continued until next week, but know this, what makes “Man of La Mancha” such an engaging play is the old man and Aldonza, two characters with broken dreams restored by an amazing series of events. In addition, I will provide my own imagined follow up to the story of Aldonza.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@ vaumc.org.