Search Words

Friday, May 4, 2012

Divine Disappointment

From the movie Dennis the Menace (1993):

Mrs. Wilson: Well, think how disappointed he's going to be when he gets home!

Mr. Wilson: Well, he better get used to it. Disappointment's gonna be a big part of his life. He's a foot short for his age and he's cross-eyed.

What is disappointment?

It the failure of our expectations.  All of us have expectation in life, since we have the capacity to image and thus plan.  From the moment we make the decision to plan, we set ourselves up for disappointment.  This is particularly true if we put a great deal of value in those plans.

As we embark on the spiritual journey, we will soon discover that God often does not seem to meet our expectations.  We think to ourselves, "I really need this, but God won't let me have it."  Or, we say, "How could God do that?!?"

Disappointment is difficult precisely because it demonstrates our own human weakness.  It also reveals how little we really know about our own lives.

Expectations always assume that we know what is best.  This is usually not the case.  We are in a battle of limited information, and only God has all the answers.  Man struggles against his limits. So, we seek answers from science, from reason, from religious books, and even from the position of stars or the entrails of a chicken.  We want to know more.

We want control and certainty, the kind that God has.

So, we begin to seek more information as a means of becoming more godlike.  The only problems is that our minds are limited.  We can't track everything, and so we cannot 'predict' all the future outcomes of our actions.  Prediction is a game of odds rather than being a certainty.

So, God routinely disappoints those with expectations of what is best.  After all, He's doing what He sees as best, and He often cannot explain why He acts as He does just like explaining to a three-year-old why he can't live on ice cream for every meal is a quixotic endeavor.  An toddler does not yet have the capacity to reason.

Yet, this disappointment is part of how God blesses us with better things.  When we are denied what we want or expect, then it sets in place two alternatives: what we want is either ill-timed or there is something better that is waiting.

I have looked back on my 20-year spiritual journey, and can quite easily say that nothing of what I wanted 21 years ago do I now have.  I was even content with the idea of dying before my 40th birthday (old age seemed such a hassle!).  Yet, what I have is more profoundly meaningful and far better than anything I had imagined.  Yet, this has been 20 years of serial disappointments: every plan has been either totally chucked-out or hugely modified.  Yet, I am now quite happy, happier now than I ever was in my youth.  Then again, I was pretty miserable back then

I still continue to struggle with plans and disappointment, but I know now that my disappointments are not with God, but with me.  The disappointment is that I still attach value to those plans.

'Divine Disappointment' is the realization that God is moving my life in a different direction.

And, most Christians ask Him to.  How?

"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Jesus Christ offered us this path through Divine Disappointment by telling us from the beginning to rely not on our own will and expectations, but on the love and care of the Heavenly Father.

Many people reject God because they see people who end their lives in utter suffering, yet they also do not see beyond this life.  If you reduce the world to a material experience, then it is going to be a miserable ride for everyone, ending in nothing.  I really don't see why atheists don't simply commit suicide right off the bat and save themselves a lot of headaches, up until I remember that most of them would much rather suffer and hold out for the possibility of 'something better.'

They do not want to be disappointed, but are willing to hedge their bets.  It is back to conjecture and probability in the place of real certainty.

So, we must continue to struggle with our expectations and manage them.  Yes, planning is a good thing, but we should remember that God is directing all things and can change our direction when He sees fit.  Is He selfish, or does He think of our needs.

You will have to make that decision for yourself.  The one thing God cannot change is our decision to create expectations and the feelings that result from those expectations being violated.  This is our own responsibility.

How we deal with Divine Disappointment is up to us.

1 comment: