I wrestle with being a perfectionist. That means that I face disappointment on a pretty regular basis. When something doesn’t match up with my high standards, I tend to feel let-down, frustrated, sometimes angry.
Often those responses are aimed at myself–if I had only worked harder or made a better decision, things would be the way I envisioned them. Instead I’m left with a less-than-hoped-for outcome and I feel like my efforts have been wasted.
But what’s even harder for me to accept are the disappointments that I have no control over at all–the ones caused by other people.
When I work myself to weariness to pursue a goal, only to discover that I still haven’t attained the unrealistic mark I had set for myself, I can usually–eventually–tune into God’s voice telling me to chill out and accept my limitations. But when someone else–someone I’ve been counting on–doesn’t step up to the plate–and the outcome I’ve been envisioning crumbles before my eyes–that feels like a different type of disappointment. It feels rather like betrayal.
And it’s damn hard to get over.
In Proverbs 13:12, it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” That pretty much describes it–that sinking feeling like the world is broken and it will never be right again. And sometimes I just want to sit there in that heart-sickness. And, to be truthful, I think that sometimes it’s okay to stay there for awhile–to acknowledge the disappointment and heart-break. Sometimes it’s important not to sweep all those shards of broken dreams and hopes under the rug. Sometimes, like David in Psalm 6, we just need to pour it all out: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away…And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O Lord—how long?… I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears.”
But then comes the day when God says, “Okay, we’ve explored your sorrow. We’ve established that you have reason to grieve. Now it’s time to see the flip-side of this situation. It’s time to look for redemption.”
Oh my, those words are hard. Self-pity seems like a very good and reasonable thing right now. I’m think I’m going to sit here awhile longer, thank you, and remind you–God–that things around here are quite broken. And since it appears there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m just going to keep licking my wounds and throwing accusatory glances at you now and then. Okay?
“No, it’s not okay,” He says with that perfect blend of hard truth and gentle grace that are his trademark. “There’s more to this story. I want to show you what I’ve been up to behind the scenes.”
And I have a choice. Sit here in my sorrow, which is now beginning to devolve into self-pity. Or get up and walk into the freedom and joy that He has prepared for me to live in even in the midst of my disappointments.
I want to get this clear: He’s not taking the disappointments away. He’s not waving a magic wand and making the sorrows disappear in a puff of smoke, replaced by a scene of perfect, insipid, happily-ever-after, fairy-tale fluff.
No, what he’s offering is a shift of perspective, a pulling back of the curtain. A look at the reality behind the reality. He’s offering a glimpse of the Kingdom.
It’s so easy to get stuck here, in our sorrows and let-downs. But, even though all those pains are real and legitimate and genuinely heart-rending, He’s calling us to more. He’s calling us to engage His redemptive plan for all those hurts–to let Him reveal them to us as they are–the building materials of a path designed to bring us into greater freedom and joy, into a wider understanding of who we really are. And most of alI into a deeper intimacy with Him.
His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55). We wouldn’t choose these disappointments as the paving stones of our lives. But if God does, can we accept that? Will we walk this path with Him? I’m going to try.