“The Mercy of Disappointment”

Another beautiful reflection at Heirs in Hope, about our need to be known and loved and provided for by a wise, loving parent.

An excerpt:

That Christmas morning, I was terribly disappointed. I had seen all my gifts, had even chosen one of them. Though I had been remembered, there were no surprises.

We try to provide for ourselves and we fail � or we succeed, giving ourselves exactly what we wanted or at least near enough. And usually we are more or less disappointed. Something is not right, something is missing. Doing it for ourselves, doing it on our own is empty, hollow. Something inside us longs to receive from someone who sees us and knows us, a teacher, a parent, a spouse, a friend. We long for surprise � to have someone look inside us and see something that we do not know about ourselves, something that answers a need we do not even know we have, something we would enjoy, something that shows us that we can be more than we thought possible.

To live without being known and provided for, to live without surprise is agony, terrible loneliness, something greater than any heart can bear. And yet we cling to our attempts to be self providers and regard disappointment as a flaw in our psyches when in truth, it is a gift of mercy telling us that we are not enough for ourselves, that our hunger to be seen and provided for by another is our heart longing for the one who really knows us. Disappointment hurts, it reminds us that we are not in union with the one who really knows us, that we are not at home where we belong. But the mercy of disappointment is being reminded that my manipulation, my imaginings, my way are far too little. Disappointment demands that I seek more than I can give myself.

The gifts I receive these days are usually books, music or personal accessories � all of which I love. I no longer want dolls but I do long for trucks. Actually, I�ve grumbled and groaned because of a dearth of trucks. (I�ve never understood why being an adult means I must give up the innocent things that I still enjoy.) But the lack of toys, and trucks in particular, has continued. Until this Christmas when a friend, who had told me she had no money for gifts, handed me an interestingly shaped package that was obviously not a book, nor a CD and was probably too heavy to be a personal accessory. It was, in fact, a truck and I was very happy. But not only was it a truck, it was a Transformer, and only years of training in manners and proper deportment kept me from leaving the dinner party to rush home and play with it. And nothing could stop me sitting up with it into the wee hours. As I write, it sits about three feet away and each time I look at it, each time I play with it, each time a guest takes it up and transforms it from one iteration to another, I smile and my heart melts in gratitude a little bit more. It was more than I knew to ask for. It tells me that my friend sees me and loves me. It reminds me of the one who has always seen me and loved me and provided for me even in the midst of my misguided attempts to provide for myself.

I have had that disappointment, finding my presents or knowing about them ahead of time. When the day comes there is no wonder, no excitement. Just a flat, let-down feeling.

But I’ve also had that joy of the perfect gift, the one I’d never though to ask for. It’s a rare but wonderful thing.

And I know too that longing, the wish that the one you love would get you the thing you long for without your having to explain, to say what it is. To have to direct them would sap the gift of much of the joy. Though I was never able to express it so well, or to see so clearly that that longing will ultimately be fulfilled when God has His way with me and I let Him pour out upon me all the gifts He longs to bestow.

The last part of her story reminds me so much of my sister. She was very attached to a large Tonka truck as a child and went into deep mourning when my mom, thinking we had all outgrown it, gave away her treasured truck. She still recalls it longingly to this day.

Of course, it poses quite the dilemma for a parent. Much as we long to know our children’s hearts, their deep longings, still much of the time those books that we long to read deeply are closed to our prying.

I look at little Isabella crawling around the floor, poking into everything. And I wonder what is she thinking, how does the world look to her eyes. She laughs and I have no idea why. She chatters and I don’t know what she is saying. She cries in frustration and I am frustrated too. If only she could tell me what she wants. But she can’t and I’m left guessing, often wrongly. And the acquisition of language overcomes some of these hurdles. But as we acquire language, we also acquire a hidden life of the mind, a deeper life.

Ultimately, for our children, too, we must trust in God to provide for all that they need, to satisfy those deepest longings.

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