We all face disappointment. Our recent election shocked nearly everyone but left half of our country in the pit of disappointment. Statistically, workers outnumber promotions, so it’s likely you were passed over a time or two. When relationships fail, disappointment is the bedrock upon which they bottom out.
Since disappointment is such a painful and unpleasant experience, we avoid looking too deeply into it. It’s not a place we want to linger, so we quickly work to release ourself from its gravity. The common, knee-jerk corrective is to give up hope. We intuit wisely that our hope is directly linked to disappointment, but our immaturity tells us we were over-hoping. This doesn’t really diminish disappointment as much as it reframes it. This chokes off the life-force of hope.
I’d like to offer a new strategy, but first we have to learn more about disappointment.
Think of your last big disappointment. What happened that you did not want to be true? That question is our first clue, because disappointment is our response to aspects of truth that we would rather suppress. Like trying to compress a giant spring off of a car, suppressing the truth creates a tension that will always overpower us to our harm.
The fastest way to more disappointment is to suppress the truth that disappointed us in the first place. This is our second clue. What we pridefully think is true is not all that is true. Disappointment then is an invitation to a wider perspective. As such it is benevolent. The wider view always humbles us because as C.S. Lewis says, “we replace things as they are for us in favor of things as they are.” The Greek word for this is metanoia, it is was religion calls repentance, or changing our minds.
Therefore, disappointment is the suffering produced by our inability to possess a world slightly better than it presently is. Suffering is produced by those aspects of the truth that we opt to suppress rather than love.
If we grasp this, then disappointment is only a container for something much more (2 Corinthians 7:9) Disappointment is the incarnation of God showing up, humbling us, and inviting us into wider truth. We can either be transformed by the process, or we can press on that spring and suppress the truth we don’t want to be true. This only furthers harm to ourself and others, inviting more disappointment.
Disappointment is sacred space, but it’s not all esoteric. We have the cruciform pattern to follow.
- Jesus was disappointed in his disciples (sleeping(Luke 22:46) , fighting(Luke 22:51), denying(Luke 22:61).
- Jesus was disappointed in his tribe/religion (Sanhedrin and their unjust capture, arrest, trial, sentence -Luke 22:52)
- Disappointed in his State (Rome’s inability and apathy, unjust torture sentence-Luke 23:25)
- Jesus was disappointed in his relationship with God (Why have you forsaken me?-Matt 27:46)
Unlike us, when Jesus met disappointment, he didn’t argue, defend, fight, retaliate, scheme, join a protest, or plot revenge. He humbled himself and went with the flow. Jesus embraced the process as necessary and it changed everything. And like him, we will each encounter this same, precious moment.
What about us? Can we welcome the invitation of disappointment to show us the truth we would rather suppress? What would happen if our country could humble itself enough to embrace and even love the wider truth that brings both sides together? Can we ever get to the place where we are honest about that part of us that hurts when we are disappointed? It’s not that we hope too high, its that we aren’t willing to surrender and be taught by our suffering. As a result, we miss God when he/she appears and we deflect the invitation to satisfy our greatest hopes.
May we have the eyes to see disappointment for all that it is, (the Advent of God) and be transformed by it.