Beyond Disappointment

Have you ever been disappointed? I know, dumb question. Of course we have. We’ve all been disappointed at one time or another. Isn’t the more important question about whether we have overcome disappointment. Or has disappointment overcome us? I know people who were disappointed at the outcome of our recent presidential election. Some even used the word devastated. I know others who were elated at the outcome and are now confused, and concerned. And disappointed.

I think that is one of the deep truths about life. There will be, despite our best efforts, disappointment.

And I don’t know which is worse; being disappointed in someone, or knowing someone is disappointed with me. Disappointment can indeed be overwhelming. If we let it.

Here’s what I mean. Being human means being finite, fallible, limited. It doesn’t matter how much we know there is always something more that we don’t know. It doesn’t matter how hard we try. There will be times when our efforts are better than other times. It doesn’t matter how much protection we create for ourselves or safety we seek. There will always be ways to negate that protection, and times we do not feel very safe.

And no matter what we do and try to keep our hearts from being broken, our hearts will, from time to time, be broken.

Have you ever been asked that, if you could go back and change something that happened in your past, would you? Last fall I attended my 50 year high school reunion and people were asking that kind of question. “If you could go back and relive high school, would you?” Several of my classmates said, “Yes.”

I said, “No way.”

Not that I’m not disappointed in some of the outcomes of my choices in life. Most choices were pretty good, but some were really bad. My heart has been broken more than once. And I know I’ve disappointed others as well. So, why would I not go back? Because if I changed one thing it would change everything, and I wouldn’t be here.

I mean here. In El Centro, the Imperial Valley. With my wife. And children. I wouldn’t be doing what I do that makes my heart sing, that challenges me and excites me and tells me that life is worth the effort.

So, what can we do about disappointment? In order to answer that question I turn to my rule of faith. The Bible. In particular I go to the writings of Paul. I can relate to him. He didn’t always get things right, but when he did, he shared the gifts of knowledge, grace and peace he had received.

His masterpiece is the Letter to the Church in Rome. The beginning of the 5th chapter is the heart of his message to the Christians in Rome. The main point I believe he is making is that we long to move past our disappointments, past the things we have done we should not have done, past the things we should have done and didn’t do.

He reckons we cannot do that on our own, that we will always be a little short of perfection so to speak. Our efforts leave us wanting, even guilty. We need another way beyond our own efforts. That way is offered to us through Jesus, who reveals God’s divine nature, which is love. A love that was willing to suffer and die for us. Even when we disappoint. We don’t need to be perfect. And that’s good, because we aren’t.

Paul puts it this way: “Disappointment (Suffering) produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…”

May we all know that kind of love.