I have only ever heard the pretty version of “I Dreamed a Dream” - you know - the Susan Boyle version.
It’s a song from the musical “Les Miserables”.
A couple of nights ago I sat down to watch the documentary about the film version that has recently been released in some places, but hasn’t made it up the A9 as far as Inverness yet.
The documentary scrutinised the film. Everything and everyone was pushed in front of a camera and asked to explain themselves. Having read one or two reviews it seems that the film was faithful to the stage play – a little too faithful perhaps. They expected something a little more than the stage show on screen. Choosing actors who can sing rather than singers who can act was also something that was picked up on.
With the documentary over, I scooted upstairs to find out what was special about Anne Hathaway and why everyone seems to be already giving her an Oscar for supporting actress. That’s when I tracked down her version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with the lyrics so I could sing along if I was so inclined.
Every poet who has ever strung a few lines together must wish that they wrote the words. Like most people I can warble the first line confidently, busk my way through the second line and hum the rest of it. It wasn’t just seeing the lyrics that made an impression on me, but hearing Anne sing them in a context I had never heard before. Like I said, I’d only heard the pretty version.
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he'll come to me
That we'll live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed
The “dreams that cannot be” and the “storms we cannot weather” drew me to the conclusion that this is really something that I can’t relate to. I have had dreams that never made it to reality. They weren’t dreams that “cannot be” but dreams that, perhaps, were never meant to be. I can’t think of any storm that I haven’t weathered – not because of any special talent for survival I possess or any closed eyes to the awfulness of the situation. The storms in my life have been the turbulent, sink-the-boat type, and I have weathered them. It hasn’t been anything about me at all but everything about God.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak to someone. He was on his way home after spending time with some of the Inverness Street pastors on Christmas day. After a little food, a little company and a little Christmas present he was going home to an evening of drink and roll-up or two of something other than straight tobacco. I think I suggested that there might be a better way of spending the evening like going for a walk. I would like to think that I didn’t come across as judgemental. The walking stick he carried should have clued me in a little as regards walking. He talked a while with me. The drink and the drugs were his way of dealing with a medical condition that caused him a lot of pain. I had churned out some easy answer to a situation that really didn’t have any easy answers at all.
My experience of pain is a real one. My history of dreams shattered can match the best of them and outweigh more than a few. My storms are not merely gentle breezes. I can relate to those things. There are times in my life that really are the pits.
What makes me different, I suppose, is my response to all these things. I have flung myself down before the throne of God with heart-wrenching sobs that all but tore my body apart. My heart had been shredded by some of the things I’d gone through. I screamed at God about the unfairness of life and stabbed a finger in the direction of people who seemed untouched by suffering demanding to know why they had a charmed life when I didn’t.
I never came to God just to get something off my chest and make myself feel better. I came crawling onto his lap because I knew only He could do something about it. Often He chose not to change my circumstances but always He changed my heart response.
I don’t have any tigers that come at night to tear my hope apart. I have songs that I sing that speak of deliverance from all tigers. My hope rests securely in God who rescues me and saves me each and every day.