Michelle Martin


November 7, 2018

We’ve all felt it — that feeling of discontent when something we wanted, something we were looking forward to, doesn’t turn out like we wanted.

Kids get disappointed all the time: It could be the Halloween costume that doesn’t look so great when you take it out of the package, or the iPad that is completely dead when you thought it was charging all night (note that charging cords work better when they are actually plugged in) or the gift from Santa that wasn’t the one you really wanted.

As kids get older, it’s the lost hockey games or races, or the girl or boy who doesn’t like you back or the college that says you’re not quite good enough. Once you’re there, it might be the college that isn’t quite what you thought it would be. They never show the grungy washing machines on the recruitment brochures.

There are whole genres of literature dedicated to adult disappointments: The job you didn’t get, the book you didn’t write (or, if you wrote it, didn’t sell) or the grown children who didn’t turn out like you thought.

The thing is, all of those disappointments are failures not of hope, but of expectation. Expectation that you really will look like a Disney princess or a superhero in a cape, expectation that your college career will look like that recruiting video montage, expectation that your family will be picture-perfect and lit in golden hues as you gather your loving and adoring children around a perfectly done turkey on your Thanksgiving table.

But no family is perfect — at least not in the Norman Rockwell-meets-“The Waltons” sense. No one sails through life, getting everything they want, when they want it. We are broken, imperfect people who live in a broken, imperfect world. Even if we could manage to do everything “right,” things would not always work out the way we planned.

That’s as it should be. What we want is not always what God wants. If we take seriously Jesus’ mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves, it would seem that at least part of what God wants is for us to spend less time worrying about whatever it is we want in the first place.

It’s better to focus on what we have. For children, that can be simple: we have a costume and a parent to take us trick-or-treating, or an iPad that will be charged in a little while. Teenagers have the world laid out before them, just waiting to see where they’ll go, and what they make of it.

Adults can be grateful for their experiences, for their whole lives: the good parts and the hard parts and the scary parts and the boring parts. The times they learned what it means to be loved, and what it means to love, and the moments they realized that no matter how much it hurt to lose somebody, they wouldn’t trade a minute of their time together. Except maybe they wish they spent less time being disappointed, and more time being grateful.


  • family life