This is one of those times I would much rather sit across from you face to face. I’d rather you were able to hear the tone of my voice, that my facial expression could speak deeper and truer than just words. Because this topic feels so tender to me lately. Disappointment has been an unexpected guest in our house for the last couple months and I was tempted to feel isolated in it. But then I started talking it out. After a few different conversations I realized every single one of us is dealing with disappointment in some way or another. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some default ways of dealing with it that just aren’t working for me anymore.
Over the past week, I’ve been processing the realness of my disappointments and asking God for what feels like the hundredth time what the heck to do with them. Today I want to share a little bit of my process with you. In hope that it will bring just a little more freedom, a little more clarity, a little more hope.
My process was a lot messier than a simply designed, four step infographic. It involved a lot of tissues. A lot of scribbling in journals. A lot of going back and forth between these things listed below. So please know this process is laid out neatly for the benefit of your brain, but your soul might need to exercise between the lines a bit.
1. NAME IT | Acknowledge the longing.
Depending on your personality, how you were raised, the level of disappointment, etc., this can be the hardest part of the process or the easiest. I’m an idealist to the core. For most things, I have little issue naming what I long for and going after it. But for a handful of those longings, the ones that sit awfully close to my core desires and deepest needs, it is terrifying to name them out loud. When we acknowledge the longing, we give it life. We face the vulnerable reality that we wanted or needed something and didn’t get it. We simultaneously acknowledge it is out of our control. Naming the longing holds the most power in this process. The enemy wants us to believe that it’s less risky to shove it down. That we are safer and more in control when longing is contained. Nothing could be further from the truth. You were designed for longing. Name it. I’m an external processor, so the real power in this step for me comes from naming it out loud to someone else. For the internal processor, this step might look like writing it down on paper.
KEY QUESTION – What is the thing or outcome I was longing for? Be as specific as you can.
2. FEEL IT | Count the cost.
This is where the tissues and ugly cry came into play for me. The pain of feeling it is often the reason we choose to just shove it down. We’re afraid of where the emotion of the disappointment will take us. Several years ago, my counselor said something to me I will never forget. “Emotion will work it’s way out in you whether you choose to make room for it or not.” Meaning, you can choose where and how you make space for dealing with difficult emotion or it will rear it’s head in backroad ways through anger, distancing yourself from others, having a few extra drinks or eating the whole tray of cupcakes. When I finally allowed myself to count the cost of my disappointment, emotion flooded in. I didn’t realize what a tender spot my heart had been in. After a few days, the emotional sting wore off. I was able to face the disappointment without anxiety. And in this part of the process, the power disappointment held over me was lifted. More freedom.
KEY QUESTION – What did I believe about this outcome I was hoping for? What did I lose? Allow yourself to count the cost.
3. OWN IT | Dig in a little more.
The first two parts of the process allowed me to get past the raw emotion of my disappointment, but I wasn’t ready to move on quite yet. I wanted to dig in deeper to the root of those longings. Because I believe it’s where we discover truth. It’s where the beauty hides. When our foundation gets ruffled and our absolutely’s become what if’s. This is especially true when the longing is such a good and pure thing. Longing for a job you love. Longing for true community. Longing for a baby. Longing to get away for some rest. Digging in exposed some beliefs I had about myself that needed to change. It widened my view and allowed God to get bigger.
KEY QUESTION – How does this disappointment affect how I see myself or how I see God or his goodness? What negative phrase or belief is connected to this disappointment?
4. ACT ON IT | Move forward.
This is where I became unstuck. The majority of my process required a lot of just being. But thank you, Jesus, we were also created for doing. In all the time I spent acknowledging the longing, feeling the emotion, and digging in deeper, I found clarity. I want to be really honest here and tell you I still haven’t found the why. The longing I had from the beginning still hasn’t changed. But I don’t feel stuck anymore. Bitterness isn’t eating me alive. I’ve moved a little farther down the road and know at least the next step. This might look like letting something go. Or it might look more like fighting for something. You may even need to take an action that feels totally unrelated. Just move forward.
KEY QUESTION – What truth can I carry forward from this experience? What does this unexpected outcome make room for?
There are so many complexities and levels of intensity when it comes to disappointment. Some disappointments are small and can be processed in a few moments before moving forward. Some disappointments throw us off course for a few days. And then there are the ones that wreck us for a while. This post was written out of a process of working through some things that were difficult, but by no means the hardest things I’ve walked through in life. I say that to let you know there are some aspects of grief and suffering I didn’t speak to here. My prayer is that God would meet you right in the middle of the thing that prompted you to read this. That he would love on you in human form through community and truth. And as always, I’m eager to make these discussions more than just one sided. I’d love to hear from you.
Find me on Instagram @flowerandfig or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
much love, Bethany
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