the point in disappointment


Today was a good day. Don't get me wrong, it's colder than Cruella de Vil in a puppy store, but the sun was out, the temperatures were in the positive - (Wait, where have my standards gone?! Probably to California), and my schedule was sprinkled with life-giving and productive conversations at work-church. (It's still both work and church to me. I can't bring myself to separate the two on a normal work day.)

You'd think all was well...

Except I found myself overwhelmed by a moment of disappointment.

Without divulging too many details, I'd been waiting on results that I'd hoped would be in favor of my desired outcome (keyword my), and albeit graciously, I was let down. I ended the phone call with forced optimism, using a high-pitched tone to fool the woman on the other end of the line, assuring her that, "Yes, in fact, I'm ok, thank you!" when in fact my inside voice sliced in a tone of hurt sarcasm, "Sure, of course, I should've known better." (Interesting how I keep resorting to certain characters I think will build strength - but, without fail, they build walls instead.) Everything in me wanted to curl up and cry. More than that, everything in me wanted to vow never to allow myself to be disappointed again. How could I have gotten my hopes up that quickly? How could I have allowed myself to dream just beyond my preferred reality?

To disappoint means to fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of; to defeat the fulfillment of hopes or plans; to thwart; to frustrate. We've all been frustrated, if not by bad news, then by a person, a behavior, an inconvenience. Live long enough, and you'll find yourself disappointed at one point in time or another. Disappointment's just as much apart of life as joy and love and laughter. It's what we do with it that makes all the difference.

Note: I never said my day was disappointing. I did well enough not to allow my brief (yet significant) moment of disappointment ruin the entire day. How quickly we lose when we allow these moments to pervasively permeate our day, our week, our life. Had I held onto that phone call with all of my sarcasm and hurt feelings, I would've failed to enjoy my encounter with a precious and spirited two-year-old. I would've missed the beautiful sunset on the way home. I would've missed the opportunity to be thankful for a warm home on a really cold day as I walked through the back door.

I would've missed a lot.

I didn't play it perfectly, though. I took my disappointment and threw a personal pity party (a P3) for a couple minutes (ok, hours), finding no humor in my husband's attempts at consoling text messages and glass-half-full perspective. It wasn't the time for humor and optimism, I thought. But neither was it my place to put so much weight on my expectations in the first place.

Here's what I know for sure:
  1. You will be disappointed. Keep living and dreaming long enough, and you'll find things don't always go your way.
  2. Disappointment does not call for a decrease in hope. I fool myself into thinking that if I hope less, I'll be less disappointed if and when something goes awry. Not true. In Psalm 131, the charge is simple: O Israel, put your hope in the Lord - now and always." Keep hoping.
  3. When you are disappointed, then, a different mindset is required. Not one that zeroes in on the object of your own contrived hope and control, but one that acknowledges that - looking at Psalm 131 again -  some matters are " . . . too great or too awesome for me to grasp."

Isn't that part of the beauty in being a limited human being? Some things are just too great and too awesome for us to grasp, including the purpose in our disappointment. Especially as Christians, we like to think we can surrender all to God. Easy. Done. Aced it.

All of what, though? The fate of our family members? The circumstances surrounding our jobs? Maybe even a significant portion of our money? But can we surrender our deepest, most vulnerable, unspoken, and raw hopes, too? That's hard. That's really really hard. Disappointment can linger for hours, days, years. And sometimes, it just plain sucks.

I learned this truth today, that the hardest things to surrender are those that are so innately apart of us that we have yet to admit - or even recognize - they're our deepest hopes and desires. I went in our prayer room at work-church and quietly asked: "God, what's the point?"

He gently invited me to recall Psalm 23 again:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.

That's it. Eleven words did me in. My expectations and wishes had temporarily gotten in the way of this Truth - His Truth. My hope had not been in the Lord, it had been in my effort and in my entitlement. Stripped of all else - even the deepest, unspoken parts of me - I was reminded that the point of disappointment is to engage in and wrestle with an invitation back to center, back to the foundation, back to the Rock. This invitation won't always be accepted immediately. Sometimes, disappointment takes a long time to work through. That's ok, though. I'm trying to be more patient with and kind to myself.

But for today, I was called away from self and more toward humility, even though a part of me is still sad. Acknowledging my sadness, with gentleness and without self-condemnation, today I'm reminded that He is, indeed, all that I'll ever need.
Ashlee EilandComment