From my own count, I have about 37 candles on the cake pictured above. Give or take a few I suppose. Either way, I’m thinking that was the last year anyone tried to actually find enough candles and enough cake to actually make it accurate. I mean, my heavens, it took two cakes then!
Flash forward to today, my 47th birthday. Where did the time go? How did those babies in that picture there become a fifth and seventh-grader? How did the blonde boy you can barely see off to the right became a man?
I thought I was old at 37. Now I know I am. I’ve got gray hairs creeping in, and skin is looking a little saggy. But those are just cosmetic kinds of things. I also have pain in my feet and knees when I walk too long and bursitis in my shoulders, which limits my ability to do everything I’d like to do.
I promised myself years ago that when I reached this stage I would not write incessantly about my aches and pains. I do not want to become THAT woman. But…it’s inevitable that as age encroaches upon us, we are going to need to vent a little about it. I just don’t want it to rob me of my joy nor anyone else of theirs. So I am going to try to hold back. But there, it’s out there. I’m old.
Just this past year, I had to buy readers for the first time. After going my whole life with perfect vision, it finally caught up to me. I have to giggle because in second grade when my sister and a lot of my peers discovered they needed glasses, I was so envious. Now, finally the day has come when I need glasses, for some things anyway. Readers come pretty stylish these days, though, and I kind of like to wear them. It’s really not so bad after all.
In fact, I have reminders all around me that I am living a privileged life, simply because I am still living. Each year is a gift, not a sentence. So even if life isn’t as comfortable as we might like, as long as we are here, we have a chance to make a difference. And that’s what I want to focus on more than anything else.
By the time this posts, my mama will be here for what has become an annual birthday visit. We’ll have enjoyed a quiet lunch together downtown Fargo. I will have been out to the sidewalk even before that to pray for the women who feel hopeless about their situation, with the hope they might see a way out of the darkness they’re in. Then, for a while, I’ll be in a dentist’s chair for an annual cleaning (glad to have all my teeth still!), and after that, will do some after-school running, all leading to a family birthday meal somewhere pleasant and yummy, hopefully.
I’m looking forward to celebrating my life, which leads me to the point of this post, and my cryptic title. At 47, I want to share with you some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Something that, at a certain point in my life, was a huge, eye-opening, Aha! moment. The wisdom imparted to me, and that I have carried with me ever since, is simply this: I am going to disappoint you.
Let me go further. Not only will I disappoint you at some point — maybe by something I’ve said or done or the way I’ve said it or done it — but you’ll be disappointed by others, too. If you’re a parent, your child is going to disappoint you. If a child, both your parents will disappoint you at some point. Your cousins will let you down. Your grandparents will prove themselves human in your eyes. Your aunt or uncle may well bring you down in ways you couldn’t have imagined back when you thought they were the cool version of your parents. Your best friend? Not so much. She’s going to rock your world with something that is going to bum you out. And your neighbor? It’s a done deal; disappointment is already on its way.
When I first was faced with this truth, it stunned me, and then, ever so slowly, I woke from the fog and realized, this is the best piece of news I could have heard, today and maybe most days.
Here’s the thing. Along with this very…er…disappointing revelation comes some very good news. There is one being in the entire universe who will never, ever, ever, not a chance, not even possible, forget it it’s not going to happen…disappoint you. And that being is God. Just God, and no other. Everyone else? Will bring you down at one point or another, in ways large or small.
This news is freeing on several different levels — I hope you will soon see it, too.
First, recognizing that we are going to disappoint people is humbling, but in a way that puts things in perspective. It’s not a license to go and disappoint people. It’s a gift that helps us be aware of our and others’ limitations, so when the disappointment goes down, we won’t be surprised, by either our own failings or theirs. We won’t think, “Now wait a minute, that person was perfect, so they weren’t supposed to disappoint me!” Or worse, “How could I have let them down?” No human being is perfect, so yes, disappointment on both the giving and receiving ends is inevitable. It just is.
Two, when someone disappoints you, you realize you have two choices: 1) wallow in the disappointment or 2), realize, “Well, I knew it was going to happen eventually. After all, they’re human. And human beings mess up. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, perhaps we can move on.”
See what I mean? It’s a GOOD thing.
Third, whether it’s us disappointing someone else, or others disappointing us, we have the constant assurance that there is one being who is above all of the disappointment stuff, who will never, if we are seeing God rightly, let us down. Never. Isn’t possible. Don’t even try to contrive such an absurdity. God is all good. God cannot, in truth, do anything that would not be in our best interest, nor bring us to a better, more fulfilling place than where we began.
Fourth, when we are disappointed, God can be the place for us to fall upon and be comforted. Then, realizing our human propensity to disappoint or be disappointed, we can fill ourselves up in God’s love and then off we go, out into the world, no worse for wear.
It’s a wonderful revelation to know that we are imperfect, but God is not. It frees us to not get too hung up on our imperfections and to stay fixated on the one who is truly perfect, and always loving, and never prone to disappointment.
Now, I have to give a shout-out to my dear friend and spiritual mentor, Linda, who gave me this insight years ago; wisdom that has stayed with me all these years and helped me get through some of my toughest moments. Thank you, Linda. I am so grateful for how you have shown Christ and His love for me to me. Thanks for being there during so many of my disappointments, too, whether self-inflicted or those others have caused me, and for helping me see it rightly.
Q4U: How does this idea surrounding disappointment sit with you? What bothers you about it? What about it brings you hope?