This week and last, I have experienced a disappointment. Not a major life disappointment, although I think I’ve had a couple of those over the years; but a medium-sized disappointment, one where the answer to the “will it matter ten years from now?” question is a solid “maybe, quite possibly yes.” Big enough to feel frustration and loss about. Enough to feel the world has narrowed a bit. Enough to discourage me, and make me question my decisions and priorities. And I’m not through mucking about in the consequences of it: this thing I wanted and didn’t get (either plan A or plan B - double whammy, ouch!), and now I must figure out plan C. I must settle. I must move forward and make the best of what to me is third-best.
The first person to repeat some trite saying, like, oh, ‘when God closes a door [God] opens a window’ is going to get smacked. I'm mostly joking but I sort of mean it. I am opposed to violence in general but you will have found a back-door in my theology if you say this, out of which I may come swinging. I’m not perfect, and I need some grace; because people who have experienced disappointment are in grief on some level, and trite sayings, in my experience, make people’s pain worse.
A trite saying is more likely to communicate dismissal than genuine care: the Lord works in mysterious ways, so get over it!... If we're not careful, it can say, "if you trust God, then you should feel no pain, therefore because you are experiencing pain you must be a terrible Truster-of-God." A trite saying can make a bludgeon out of truth. It may be true on the surface, but it can cut off the air and make people retreat into someplace safer and more understanding. And some people retreat into someplace anesthesized, insulated from pain; which, you can ask anyone in recovery from addiction, is not a healthy scenario.
Let me just reiterate that: people experiencing disappointment are experiencing grief. Loss of possibility is loss. Pain is pain, and pain is sticky. We can't just dismiss it.
The image that keeps coming to my mind is of sticky bread dough. A lump of sticky pain-dough that makes a mess if you touch it. And don’t even try to roll it out in that state. The best way to handle sticky dough is to flour our hands and our workspace and knead it. Work it till it’s manageable and not sticky anymore and can be set in a warm place to rise and transform. This is the work of prayer in me today.
God of possibility, God of transformation
Look upon us now with grace and mercy.
We did not get a thing we wanted,
A thing we hoped for.
We have experienced disappointment.
And need your comfort.
Be present with us
As we are present to our pain.
Be patient with us
As we are patient with our grief.
Help us to travel the path of disappointment, loss, and grief,
Holding on to love;
And to find joy along the way,
Even in difficulty.
If our expectations are inappropriate
Set us right.
If our vision is too narrow
Take us to a better vantage point.
If our motivations are only self-serving
Help us to examine ourselves.
If our woundedness has blinded us
Open our eyes.
Help us to move forward with gratitude and expectation of blessing,
Trusting in your goodness;
Willing to re-imagine our circumstances in light of your Kingdom,
Trusting in your care.
And may our pain, and our attention to it,
Reveal your faithful love.