Recently I got the news I had not been chosen for a writing mentorship that I was really excited about. I was disappointed. However, I was not depressed, disillusioned or despairing. I did not spiral into all the reasons why I suck. Why? Because, you can’t live to fifty-six years old and not learn some things about disappointment.
I remember one of my first big disappointments. I had a three year old and a baby and I had decided it was time to go to graduate school. I hadn’t just “decided,” I really felt it was what God wanted me to do. I’d prayed about it, I was ready and I was excited. The problem was I was also naïve; I didn’t know you had to apply before signing up for a grad school class, and when I went down to register, I found out I’d already missed all the deadlines. I was devastated.
Disappointments are often best understood in retrospect. At the time, David and I were working with a student ministry. Each year we trained a group of student leaders and they in turn ran the fellowship group on campus. We called these student leaders our “exec team.” The year I didn’t get into grad school, our ministry was going strong. We had a great exec team locked and loaded, ready to start the year with BBQ’s, Bible Studies, weekly large group meetings, etc. Then, suddenly, all but one of the leaders quit. This left David and me to pick up the slack until new leaders had been trained. If I’d been in grad school, this would have been impossible.
Here are three things I’ve learned about disappointment:
- Sometimes a “No” is saving your butt! What I learned that year was that God knew what I didn’t. I couldn’t know our leaders would bail, but God did and he protected me from being overwhelmed when I needed to pick up more ministry slack. He had the bigger picture. Sometimes when we don’t get what we think we want, it’s because God can see down the road and knows it’s not the best timing for us to receive that desire
- Sometimes the “No” we receive is temporary. I did get to start grad school, one semester later. I loved it and it was perfect timing. Our student leaders were up and running and I could concentrate on school and babies.
- Sometimes a “No” is because there is a better “Yes” coming that we can’t see yet. That’s what I’m hoping for with the mentoring program. I mean, I could have been rejected because I suck. But, I also could have been rejected because God knew that one of my books will soon become a NYT best seller and I’d need all my time to travel around speaking on Ellen and Oprah! That’s my hope anyway.
In the meantime I’m at peace. I’ve lived long enough to trust God for the bigger picture and to know he has my best interests at heart.
How have you dealt with disappointment? Have I forgotten something? Are you facing any big disappointments now?