Putting disappointment in perspective

Guest Column
By Sister alies therese
“A woman, so says Anthony deMello,SJ, went to the doctor with a very bad summer cold and nothing he gave her seemed to cure it. She was so frustrated. The doctor suggested the following: go home, take a hot shower and before drying yourself stand in front of the A/C, stark naked. ‘Will that cure me?’ No, but it might give you pneumonia and that I can cure!”
How many times have you tried to solve one problem by applying another answer? Life can get very confusing if we mix and match too many things. This includes our spiritual life as well as all the other aspects of our lives. On the other hand sometimes an ‘out of the box’ thought might just open up a new horizon!
Most of the time patience is required for obtaining answers to our deepest questions. We can repeat the answers of others, and I’m not implying they aren’t ‘correct,’ or we can search for a way to say it to ourselves that expresses our own experience. The ‘who am I, where have I come from, where am I going?’ type questions face us at each turn of age. Our transitional times of say 16, 25, 40, 60 or 80 years, for example, bring to bear different responses…not necessarily a different ‘answer’ but a deeper way, one would hope, of considering the matter. Allowing ourselves to pay attention to our hearts and the Heart of God invites us to grow deeply.
What do you do with disappointment? Here’s a word among many that describes how you might feel about your reality. Here are some responses I received: I get angry’ I get frustrated; I get worried; I blame myself; I blame others; and yet the most refreshing was: I get on with it!
Disappointment links us to not being in control, even when we thought we had done everything we were ‘supposed to’…and still ‘it’ didn’t work out. Perhaps it is a relationship or some task. Perhaps we felt we were a disappointment to parents or spouse?
Each day we have the opportunity to face our disappointments and to turn them into something even more fruitful. I was disappointed not to see Saturn or Jupiter because of the rain, but I saw a most magnificent light show crack across the purpled sky. Children are often disappointed because they are told one thing and then the adults do otherwise. Sometimes this cannot be helped…sometimes it can.
There are many stories from Scripture that show shades of disappointment. They also show a new beginning. Finding Jesus in the temple, for example, reminds us to pay attention to what is most important. Mary and Joseph were so worried and disappointed that Jesus was not with them on their journey home. They had to travel a whole day back to the city to find Him and when they did, He was doing something very unexpected, teaching. They were disappointed He had not been with them (was it really fear He was lost?)…they rejoiced at finding Him. Often being away from the Lord and coming back together brings the sweetest blessings.
If you run into disappointment: breathe. After that begin to ask yourself some questions: what is most important? How should I proceed? And, is God best served by this project/whatever? If indeed God has closed that door…look for the window He has cracked open. If it is of God you need not be disappointed for very long. Trust He will show you the way forward.
Our growth in faith is much like this. Is it easier to say ‘yes I believe’ when we are younger or older? The building of a spiritual life is critical as we journey because it is there we meet our Lord and there we face ourselves. It is within this growing body of both knowledge and experience that we discover how the plan of God shepherds us forward to final and full union. We have been given that ‘playbook’ in our Scriptures, the writings of saints and holy folks from over the centuries. Let’s take the opportunity every day to explore those writings and learn to apply them to our lives. It may not be as outrageous as standing naked in front of the A/C…but in fact it has much better promise of a ‘cure.’
The Book of Proverbs, full of such wisdom and wit, remind us of this:
“Trust wholeheartedly in God, put no faith in your own perception; in every course you take, have God in mind: God will see your paths are smooth. Do not think of yourself as wise, fear God and turn your back on evil: health-giving, this, to your body, relief to your bones.” (Prov3:5ff)
(Sister alies therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a weekly columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)