On the cusp of celebrating my 44th birthday, I have had my share of disappointments. From not making the cheerleading squad in ninth grade, to being told my running days were over, to hearing a “no” about a publication opportunity, I know what it is like to feel disappointed.
In addition, I am a parent. Not only do I deal with my own disappointments, but also I deal with my children’s disappointments. Sometimes I think I feel their disappointments more deeply than my own. Last Friday was one of those times when I wished I had magical parental powers to change the course of events and spare Anna from disappointment.
Friday was the State Qualifier cross country meet. This meet determines who goes onto the State Meet the following weekend. This meet is the one our team talks about all season long.
Last Thursday, Anna complained of being cold one minute and hot the next. By that night, the thermometer registered 101.5. I sent her to bed, hoping that a good night’s sleep and lots of fluid would make the difference. Yet Friday morning dawned and the fever hadn’t left. In spite of her illness, Anna decided she wanted to run. This meet was too important to miss. Brad and I agreed she should run and give her best effort. In the end, her best effort wasn’t enough to secure a spot for the State Meet.
What do you say to your child or to anyone in these moments?
This experience started me thinking about disappointment, in general. A few thoughts bubbled to the surface that I think are worth sharing.
First, no one wants to hear platitudes. For those of us who identify with Christ, we know that God is good; he is sovereign; he is faithful. Our Christian brothers and sisters know these truths too. Sensitivity and a winsome spirit are required in these moments. Sometimes a listening ear and a hug are the best “words.”
Second, facing disappointment in life cultivates compassion and sympathy towards others. In this instance, Anna was still able to run. But sometimes an illness or injury is much worse. At these times, we can offer friendship and love to the people in our lives facing hardship because we know what it is like to feel disappointed, even if we haven’t experienced the same situation.
Lastly, I have been surprised time and again how a disappointment opens a door to an unexpected opportunity. As a ninth grader, I thought I would die if I didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Well, that obviously didn’t happen. What did happen was that I joined the cross country team and an entirely new opportunity developed. By God’s grace, I enjoyed many successes as a runner, but I also had my share of disappointments too.
Since this experience last week, Anna has already started to talk about “next year.” How wonderful that God made us as creatures that can look forward and experience hope. Even more wonderful is the knowledge that regardless of how many disappointments this life may contain, God’s love and presence remain constant.