The Joy of Disappointment
Disappointment is the worst best friend you’ll ever have. When invited, she shows up and fills up all the empty space and likes to make herself the center of attention. She always comes at the most inopportune times and brings uninvited guests. She always comes with an ulterior agenda and you quickly realize there is more to her arrival than what you see on the surface.
In June of 2015 I faced one of my most dreaded fears (“most dreaded” may be a little dramatic, but that’s how I felt at the time). For many years our tribe was comprised of 2 parents, 4 children, and one very old dog. Now, our tribe has grown to 2 parents, grandparents of 7, 7 children (spouses included), and many dogs old and young across 3 different homes. At the time, my sister had 5 kids and I loved being their aunt. (Being able to have a blast with kids and then send them home is the best!) Growth is a beautiful sign of health.
But what happens when grief and joy collide? That June, Joe and I were in our 7th year of marriage (meaning we were on year 7 of barrenness), and after having tried numerous solutions, we were tired, disappointed, and moving on with life. We had put the pursuit of children on the back burner. I had thrown myself into work and the pursuit of personal goals to take my mind off my gaping wound.
Then, one day, the glass bubble I was hiding in--shattered.
It was quite late in the evening and I had received a phone call from my brother who is about 3 years younger than me. He and his wife had been married for just under a year and they called to tell us that they were pregnant. I will never forget the grief I felt in that moment. My only response was to fall face forward into my bed and let out the sorrow. I felt ALONE, because in that moment there was not one word in any known language that could comfort the pain that was surging through my heart. On top of that pain, I felt guilt, as if I deserved the “Worst Sister Ever” Award for feeling such sorrow in that moment. It wasn’t that I was not happy for them--it was that their joy had just rubbed salt in my already very open wound. At that time I had no capacity to feel happiness.
Like I said earlier, I had dreaded that day, because I knew it would come. My younger brother having a child before me seemed so out of order and even unnatural. It is one thing for my older sister to start having children before me--but not my younger brother. Why did I care so much and why was I so hung up on this? After MUCH processing, the answer became clear: this pregnancy undeniably, unintentionally, and undoubtedly exposed our lack and the barrenness we faced. And with that, it started a long series of tumultuous roads to journey on. The duality of sorrow and joy was a new experience for us. We figured it out quite slowly and graciously. During this time everyone was allowed the space they needed.
Here’s a journal entry from that time: 6/15/15 - To have to sit and stare at the very thing that I have begged God for, something that I have desired with all of my heart--is unbearable. And then to have God give my brother that something I’ve wanted for so long…It got real. This is HARD!
I was disappointed in myself, in God, in my brother; I was broken and in pain and felt completely overlooked. Oh how easy it would have been to sit there for longer than I should have! That’s all I wanted to do…
…But I didn’t. The next hard part was letting one of my dearest friends and fellow triber into my pain and giving her permission to speak freely and honestly! Everyone needs at least one of these tribemates. She cried hard with me, sat in my pain patiently, and then, after a while, proceeded to say, “This is the refiners-fire sh*t, where it burns and bends and blisters. And we can go on living a monotone life and you will be blessed there, or you could fight through this hard season. Ask God what He wants you to learn here.”
After spending time asking God what he wanted me to learn, he showed me that this whole journey is about who I am becoming in the process. An important question I learned to ask myself is: “Is the person I want to become lining up with the person I am right now?” Some of these present moments and hardships are for future success stories.
If you are facing pain or struggle, if you are overwhelmed or hurting, if you are questioning all things or even just one thing--run to your tribe, and let them love you through. You are in the refiners-fire sh*t, where excess and unnecessary things are being burned, bent, and blistered off of you. You can fight through this season, just as I have fought through mine. I encourage you, like my friend encouraged me: Ask God what He wants you to learn here. Then, take time to listen, share, and process with your tribe.
See you next Tuesday!