I was out for a fun evening with friends when I saw him, just over a stranger’s shoulder.
After a few furtive glances, then some downright rude staring, I determined that it really was him. One of my best friends from college. But the emotions that flooded over me weren’t happiness and joy.
From deep inside, only pain welled up.
“Don’t look,” I whispered to the friends I was with. “What?” the one nearest me asked, looking around.
I grabbed her arm, eyes staring straight down at the ground. “Don’t look now, but there’s one of my best friends from college. I haven’t seen him in years. We don’t really talk anymore.”
And then I felt the sting.
“Are you crying?” another friend asked, as my shoulders began to shake a little, and tears started dripping. I couldn’t really explain.
The people closest to me now couldn’t know the disappointment and heartache that I felt over this broken relationship from the past. When we were young, just out of college, moral choices began to separate this old friend and me. Eventually, we each drew lines in the sand. Deep lines.
Over time, the ebbing waters had washed those lines away, but now there was a tidal pool of distance between us. We would never find our way back to each other. Not like before.
Eventually, I worked up the nerve to go talk with him. Our last encounter eight years ago over my hospital bed had given us the opportunity to sort of smooth things over. But when our 5-minute review of the years since then ended that evening, there was a quick hug, but no plans for the future. No promises to keep in touch.
We knew we couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, there was nothing I could do with this disappointment.
It’s similar to the disappointment I feel when I hear the name, “Aurora.”
I don’t know anyone by that name, but I had hoped to. Years ago, it was the name I picked out for a future daughter. It was celestial and mythical and beautiful . . . just like I suspected my little girl would be one day.
But no offers of marriage and a childless womb stolen from me by cancer three years ago have left me with no possibility of bearing children.
I’m thankful to be alive, thankful that I have lots of other people’s children in my life, thankful that this too is in God’s plan for me.
But still . . . the disappointment.
I guess we all experience disappointment from time to time. Plans are changed, expectations unmet, relationships strained. But usually we can do something about it. Make a new plan, change our expectations, work harder at the relationship.
Occasionally, though, there are disappointments that go much deeper. Circumstances that are out of control and final. And there’s nothing we can do.
Jesus could do things about our disappointment if he wanted to. He could solve all our problems, meet our expectations, grant our dreams. And often he does.
But sometimes, his plan is different than that. And rather than fix what’s broken, he meets us in our disappointment and sits with us there.
Like a disappointed child, I still kick and scream, even though Jesus is sitting there with me. I yell, I tell him his plan is stupid, I throw myself down on the ground and pound with my fists. And still he waits.
Eventually, exhausted from my ranting, I finally give in and rest there with Jesus. My disappointments have left me empty, but as I rest in Him, I once again find everything I need.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior
Today, I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends, discussing in three parts the spiritual practice of rest. Read Ann’s thoughtful post “Three Ways to Really Enter into His Rest Right Now” and then scroll to the bottom of her post and read what others have written.
You might also be interested in my post on rest from last week, “Just Lay There and Rest.”