“When was there a time when you had an expectation that didn’t get met? Maybe you set a goal for yourself and totally blew it. Maybe you promised something to a friend and had to let them down. Maybe life just didn’t turn out the way you expected. Write about that. Tell the story, confess the failure, and help us learn with you. Don’t just talk about the heartache; give us hope for change.”
(I have to be honest, right now the greatest disappointment I have is that it’s 10:15 and I still haven’t blogged today, which means I’ll have less time for sleep. I’ll try to overlook the immediate devastation that I’m experiencing and think about something with a bit more depth.)
I think honestly one of the deepest disappointments I’ve experienced was a result (as most disappointments usually are) of me harboring emotions and expectations without evaluating them once I returned from Tanzania. It was November 2013, and I was exhausted. I landed in Miami, thinner than I am now and overstimulated. I sat pretty quietly in our family minivan and ate Smartfood and, with much confusion, watched Ylvis’s hit “What Does the Fox Say?” which had very recently gone viral, on my sister’s smartphone.
Arriving home, I fell into my bed which was softer and more lovely than I remembered and slept with a soundness that would rival most infants. When I awoke (and for many weeks to come), I was surrounded by family, tender loving care, first world commodities. That’s enough to placate anything after a length of time without it. Soon it was time for me to begin working to take care of student loans, but I didn’t mind. I had it all planned out; I could endure any sort of menial task or job because in six to eight months time I figured I’d be back with my little ones in my arms in my home across the sea. Each frustration with first world privilege that was thrown at me left and right, each put down comment from my coworkers, each moment of confusion that I experienced as I watched American priorities unfold in front of me–none of it mattered, because I was leaving.
The problem with hanging all your hopes and dreams on a “someday” or a “somewhere”, or even a “somebody”, is when you don’t get that thing as is often the case, you get disappointed. I didn’t even notice because I was so busy. Busyness is my anti-drug, or more appropriately, my drug of choice. It’s very distracting.
The problem with distraction is that it fills up the space that you normally use to evaluate what you’re feeling.
It’s not so bad, I reasoned. So I didn’t go back to Tanzania. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to at that time, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t mourning the loss of a dream–I just didn’t know it. There are few times in my life where I’ve really and truly felt like God has forgotten me, but this was one of that.
I felt like God had left me alone in America and forgotten about me. I felt like I had no purpose and no direction. I felt like I was being punished for not wanting what was right in front of me. I felt like it was always everyone else’s turn to be happy, and that I’d have to forever be the smiling friend who went to events solo. I was also constantly exhausted working six to seven days a week, which didn’t help anything.
I can’t say when exactly or how precisely I got here, but somehow I’m working my way out of that valley of disappointment. I think it’s because I’ve spent the last two years learning (pretty much against my will) that I can’t afford to put the weight of my happiness anywhere that isn’t Jesus. It’s too temporary and too transient. I really can be okay, wherever I am. I can be useful wherever I am. I am loved wherever I am. And I can give love wherever I am.
Sometimes the only way to learn that lesson is when you don’t get what you want. For this reason, disappointment should be appreciated; it is one of the best teachers.