Can you name the speaker? Albus Percivel Wolfric Brian Dumbledore. Otherwise known as… that old guy from Harry Potter. One more thing you’ll learn about me is that I LOVE Harry Potter. I know there are ethical issues with it among the Christian world, but to me, it’s a great story with some powerful lessons for life. One of the lessons I have been thinking about a lot lately is the one quoted above.
Let me give you a little context: The quote is presented by Professor Dumbledore to a young Harry Potter during his first year at Hogwart’s boarding school. Harry had discovered a magical mirror that shows the viewer what he desires most in life. For poor orphan Harry, the mirror showed him reunited with his parents. As a result, Harry snuck away every night to sit in front of the mirror for hours, just looking at the life that could have been. It was at this point that the wise Dumbledore entered and spoke to Harry: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”
I have talked about my experiences with homesickness before. What I don’t think I mentioned was how obsessed I was with that homesickness. I entered the United States with every belief that the change was only temporary and that I would one day return back to Thailand to continue living my life. In my mind, life was on pause until we returned to Thailand again. I’m guessing you see the problem with this. At first I enjoyed the US. “What a pleasant place!” I thought. But it was more of the perspective of a traveller, not a resident.
My thoughts were continuously of Thailand… dreaming of seeing my dog again, of visiting the noodle stand at the market place (Yes, I REALLY love noodles!), of going to the Lopburi zoo, and of playing with the other missionary kids in the area. Even after I realized that we would be staying in the US permanently, my thoughts were almost consumed with what my life used to be in Thailand and with dreams of returning as a family to the place I called home. And this is where Dumbledore’s words strike hard: “… and forget to live!” How much time did I waste dreaming about what could have or should have been? How many relationships did I miss out on because I thought my time in the US was only temporary?
There is a chapter in the Bible (Jeremiah 29) that recently brought this issue further to my attention. To briefly summarize, these people had been exiled out of Jerusalem and were living in Babylon. They obviously missed home and the fact that they weren’t even allowed to return must have been excruciating. Then God says something interesting in verses 5-7:
“Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce… Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf”
Even God tells the exiles to stop dwelling on dreams of returning home. He tells them to settle, plant roots, and pray for the city that they were exiled to! I think this is relevant for any move we make in life, whether it be from Thailand to America, or from home to a college dorm.
This is definitely a process that I am continually working on. I don’t want to be afraid of living or of planting roots, but I am. I know from experience that planting roots means that, eventually, some of those roots will be pulled up, and that hurts. But there is always some good that is retained, whether it be a single friend or just a wonderful experience. And when those little roots are pulled up, we must tell ourselves again, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”