Can Disappointment Save You?

If there is one thing that I hate in life - and believe me, I am human, I am capable of hating plenty - it is being disappointed. 

As a mother, I get disappointed with my kids when they misbehave. As I'm writing this, it's bedtime, and they are hardly working on getting to those sugarplums and fairy castles that only exist in our imaginations. It took me a long time to learn not to take things like that personally, and it got easier to deal with. I still struggle with this, but you get used to this sort of disappointment. 

As a wife, I think disappointment comes harder. It can be personal. It can be harder to make right. My husband and I have a good relationship, and there are very few times where he has disappointed me, and that number is nothing compared to how much he has come through for me. 

As a writer, I have known plenty of times of disappointment. I get relive them daily as I read the less flattering reviews of my books, as I try to market novels to a world where there are so many other novels to compete against, as I try to fight with myself to make sure I am actually writing, and not just checking social media. 

But disappointment is still crushing. 

As a daughter, I have had times when I have been disappointed by my parents. That's a universal thing, I think. I know, on the other side now, I make sure I disappoint my kids often, and try to get them to see it's a good thing. 

So this revelation hit me. What if, despite my hatred for disappointment, it can actually save you? 

I thought about this in the context of my dad. My dad and I have had a rocky relationship since my teen years. I didn't realize it at the time, and I didn't understand it, but he was going through a terrible time at his job. He was depressed, and he had a few medication changes. But to an insecure teenager, who felt ostracized from the cliques at school, often lonely, often stuck wondering if I was ever going to get past that geeky, ugly girl stage, his emotional unavailability disappointed me. Terribly. To this moment, when I think of it, there's a sharp pain in my heart and a devastating blow to my joy. 

Now, having been through a few rounds of depression myself, I get it. But as a mother, I don't. And as a daughter, I still struggle with forgiving him enough to where we can be in the same area for longer periods of time. 

Some part of me, on a random day last week, wondered if this disappointment saved me.

I was depressed throughout high school. I didn't fit in (years later, I likened the experience to being a moonflower stuck in a sunflower garden) and I didn't want to really fit in. I saw school as a duty I didn't want and an exercise in a discipline I didn't want. I didn't hate all of it, because there were some parts I loved, but overall I have had a long journey in coming to terms with my past. Therapy is a good thing, by the way.

My depression led me back to God. I'd never been far away, really, having grown up in the church, but it led me to see the true goodness of the people before me. I started hanging out more with the older people in my church, the people who don't know what a 'blog' is and won't mind if I say so. I learned a lot from them, about different things. I collected many of them as secondary fathers and people to look up to. I stopped looking quite so much to my peers to affirm me and kept my eyes focused on God's affirmation. (As a side note, I will mention this did not always turn out great for other people who were around me at the time, and I have a good deal of my own apologies to make for high school.) 

I might not have done this if my father had been a different person.

In my Starlight Chronicles series, at some point near the beginning of it all, my main character, Hamilton, says that it's hard to completely hate something if some good comes from it. That's a lesson I've learned over and over and over again, through the good and especially through the bad. 

God, I love Hamilton. 

In many ways, my own disappointments have been able to be redeemed as appointments. Some of the most idealized elements of my childhood - whether it was family, faith, or true love - have been countered by the less than ideal and the downright opposite of ideal. And I am who I am because of that, and I have to be grateful for it. 

Some person might say, "Well, you could've been better, too, maybe." That's true. But that doesn't mean that I'll never be better, either. I can still look back and see my growth as a person, as a daughter, as a mother, as a Christian, and as a member of a community, and say, "I've come this far, and I can keep going." Growth is not always a choice, but it remains a choice. 

So if you hate being disappointed as much as I do - and I still hate it - or you have been terribly disappointed in your life, I can completely empathize. I do believe that "playing through pain" is part of life, just like "jumping for joy" is too. I got to know God better through pain. It is a familiar avenue for me, one I have revisited and will likely revisit again. I hope as I get older and grow more I will meet God and get to know him in other altitudes (or maybe attitudes, or maybe beatitudes). I do believe that God can use your pain to save you from greater loss, or even greater pain, and he can redeem you and restore you from the pain you've felt. I am living proof that it can happen. 

 

C. S. JohnsonComment