Our family has made somewhat regular trips to Louisville, Kentucky, for the past few years. There have been many reasons for this destination, including the fact that it is the home of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where I am a longsuffering student, emphasis on the long), a wonderful city full of places to explore for the whole family, and the presence of some pretty solid BBQ joints. In addition to the numerous reasons I could provide for our love of this particular city and surrounding area, there were two other benefits that ranked pretty highly on the list for our kids and for me: 1) the Seminary’s student center and its pool with diving board, and 2) the availability of Diet Sun Drop, my favorite carbonated beverage.
You can imagine my children’s disappointment, then, when we went into the student center during our mini-getaway over the last couple of days of Spring Break and found a sign announcing the pool closed for a massive renovation. Reagan’s new swimsuit had to go unused, and poor Elijah sorrowfully declared, “I don’t even know why I came to Louisville. All I wanted to do was swim!” (I couldn’t help but to laugh at his naïveté in thinking that he would have had the option to stay home!) What he was experiencing was disappointment, and deep disappointment at that. Then, as I began to make my usual grocery store circuit to buy each store out of their stock of Diet Sun Drop, I discovered that it was not being carried any more. It was not that they were simply out of stock; there wasn’t even a sticker on the shelf for it anymore! After the third store that I tried, I finally accepted the reality that I would not be bringing home a several month supply. What I was experiencing was disappointment, and just like Elijah, it was deep disappointment.
At some point and in some way, each of us will face disappointment. We will have an expectation that we will achieve a certain goal (but fail), procure a certain object (but discover we cannot), or maintain a certain relationship (but experience heartbreak when the other person drifts away). In some cases, these expectations are dependent on our own decisions and actions; in other cases, they are predicated on the actions of other people. Regardless of who is responsible, though, the outcome is the same: unfulfilled expectations.
How do we handle the disappointment that arises in us from unfulfilled expectations? One of the first things we should do is consider our expectations and whether they are realistic. If your expectation is that you are going to become an architect, but you have no artistic sensibilities, mathematical and engineering prowess, or the requisite education, any disappointment in not achieving this career stems from an unrealistic expectation on your part. If – after that initial assessment – you conclude that your expectation is a realistic one, consider whether the outcome that brought you disappoint was beyond your control (within a biblical understanding of the concept, of course). It is easy to be disappointed by a store’s decision to stop carrying your favorite beverage, but I had absolutely zero impact on that decision. Why, then, should I allow that disappointment to have such a large impact? But most importantly, we are to find our satisfaction in Christ, not the things of this world. Yes, we enjoy the good things of creation, as we should, but disappoint stems from elevating that creation above the Creator, the gift above the Giver. Whether it’s a closed pool or a lack of Diet Sun Drop, the disappointment we experience now is a reminder that one day – soon! – all disappointments will cease to exist when Jesus returns. Just something to think about…