Facing disappointment

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

It was 6:45 on a Sunday morning, and the sun and my three-year-old grandson were both peeping just over the covers of my bed. "Grammy, it's time to get up."

"Oh, sweetie, Grammy needs just five more minutes to sleep, then I'll get up."

A pause of contemplative quiet from the little guy, then this eye-opener: "Grammy, I'm not disappointed – I'm just hungry." It was said with calm and utter reasonableness. In two seconds I was out of bed, had my robe on, and was headed down the stairs to fix a bowl of cereal for this precious one.

I've thought about my grandson's statement since then. At first I thought that he didn't really mean "disappointed." But as I thought about it, it seemed exactly the right word. He was telling me that he wasn't being fussy, willful, or unreasonable; he had a need and was certain that I would want to fulfill it. And I did.

This gave me a new perspective on disappointment and changed my approach to dealing with it. It's easy to think of disappointment as an involuntary response to an outward circumstance or situation – one of those things you almost have tofeel initially but then can master through reasoning, passage of time, or a change of circumstances. But what if we could see up front that disappointment is the result of willfulness? We want circumstances to turn out in a certain way, and when they don't, we feel unhappy. But the insisting on how we want things to turn out does not happen involuntarily, and this preconceived outcome is at the heart of disappointment.

Jesus struggled with disappointment in the garden of Gethsemane. It was after a poignant supper with his disciples, during which he poured out in symbolic gestures and tender words his hope that they would take up his lifework and carry the torch of healing.

He knew already that Judas would betray him, and I think he must have felt heavy with sadness as the time approached for his crucifixion. He went into the garden to pray. Twice he went back to the disciples and found them asleep. He woke them and expressed disappointment that they weren't praying with him. But they did not live up to his expectations. And after the third trip back from the garden, Jesus prayed, "... not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Trusting God's will didn't result in the failure of his mission but in the triumph of his resurrection and ultimately his ascension.

In drawing inspiration from Jesus' experience, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "When the human element in him struggled with the divine, our great Teacher said: 'Not my will, but Thine, be done!' – that is, Let not the flesh, but the Spirit, be represented in me" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 33). It isn't easy to resist willfulness and to not want things to turn out the way that we calculate will be to our advantage. But preventing and healing disappointment rests upon willingness to let God's will govern our thoughts and lives.

Once when I chaired a committee, I gathered members who would be good workers and active participants. At our first meeting, when it came to dividing up the assignments and responsibilities, everybody started making excuses, saying they couldn't do this or that. Finally I stormed out, throwing back over my shoulder, "Why did you accept an appointment to this committee if you had no intention of doing anything?"

I was not happy with my outburst, and as soon as I got to the car and headed home, I began to pray. For several days I prayed and struggled with self-righteous disappointment. Finally I realized that in forming the committee, I had willfully arranged to get all the good workers on my committee so that my job would be easier and go more smoothly. This motivation had backfired. Now I prayed to be more unselfish in moving ahead with this work. I looked to God for guidance and support, not specific people I had hand-selected. I felt at peace with this shift in my thinking, and that afternoon, one by one, committee members began calling and volunteering cheerfully to do certain tasks with no mention of my outburst. The project was a huge success and a great joy when I let go of my will.

Giving up human will blesses us with both the peace of mental release and the assurance that all legitimate needs will be met better than we could have planned.

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