Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment.

We have had an unusual amount of disappointment the last few months. Thankfully, nothing we have experienced has been life-threatening, or even completely life-altering, but disappointment is one word that has encompassed our house-hunting since June.

My friend Heidi (the homeschooling, literature-pro, Khan Academy-introducing friend) shared something interesting at a speaker training session that resonated with me. She was actually sharing what someone else shared with her at a group event, telling us that most of our disappointment doesn't stem from our actual circumstances, but from our expectation of circumstances. She suggested that we build models in our minds of how we think our lives will be, or how our circumstances will turn out, and our disappointment usually stems from when those models get torn down, flipped upside-down, or even slightly altered.

Heidi gave the example of driving into a parking lot. Let's say you drive in and the only spot is in the back so you happily drive over there and park. Now, let's start over. This time, when you first enter the parking lot, there is an open spot in the middle, but as you approach, someone else beats you to it, taking your dearly beloved spot. Right away, you see another open spot near the back and park there begrudgingly, while dealing with a small heap of frustration and your less-than-pleasant attitude. Is this making sense? The same parking spot in the back of the parking lot was both welcome and despised in these situations. The difference was not in the location of the spot, but in your expectation, in the model you built in your mind which was quickly destroyed.

In all this house-hunting, Mark and I have built so many models. First, of a property outside of Beaverton, then maybe a large lot in Milwaukie. Hmm, back to Beaverton, maybe Tigard or Hillsboro, maybe a really nice home this time and we'll have less yard. Change of plans, let's look at Gladstone! Gosh, that didn't work out, maybe Tualatin might work instead. Yes! Offer accepted! We visit again two days later and let the kids enjoy the enormous back yard while hearing from the inspector that a large mortgage and a 30 year commitment might not be the best deal for endless list of needed repairs on this 20 year old house. You see where I am going with all this?

So many models, too many ideas of what our life might look like, and lots of destroyed visions along the way.

After many days of soul-searching, talking, praying, and more looking on the internet, we have decided to look at renting. Well, we did for several days, then we looked at homes for sale again, and came back to the idea of renting once more. Things are not turning out how we envisioned. We are not completely disheartened, because we know God's plans are best, even when they seem less than fun. And right now, we are only dealing with grief from the models we built in our hearts and minds, not with any real loss or tragedy.

As we've looked at many homes this week, we are trying to be less picky. We're only renting, so the yard doesn't need to be as big, the house as nice, or the layout as convenient, but it's still really hard to settle for all of it. It's tough to commit to living somewhere that is less than what we were hoping for. Unless we die, or unless Jesus comes back, this will not be the last place we live. I understand and I'm totally fine with living with less, but, I'm still finding it hard to jump in and say yes.

The idea of taking a "less than" house right now could feel like taking a step back in life, but it is here I am reminded that living with less, or even living with lower quality, is completely acceptable. In fact, we often see more of God's glory and kindness toward us when we have fewer earthly possessions. Living "the good life" is more than just having the next best thing or waiting for something more wonderful. Having a better house or a better car or a better job may never come. God does not promise a life that is blessed with an abundance of material goods, and in all of this house-hunting I am reminded that God's promises are not just for our lives on earth, but are ultimately eternal. While I do experience so many material blessings in my day-to-day life, they are not the end goal of my obedience to God, they are not something I place my hope in as I walk in faithfulness to His calling.

I know I am learning an incredible amount from all this back and forth. God is definitely strengthening my faith in His goodness and in His unknown plans. He is pushing me to trust Him despite external circumstances calling for me to figure things out apart from Him. I know my ways are not His ways, that my thoughts are not His thoughts. While Mark and I are nearly clueless about what this next year of our lives will look like, He is not. In fact, God has gone to seemingly extreme lengths to rapidly dash away all of our plans. It may not seem like this fact is worth rejoicing in, but I know I can. Why? God is giving evidence to us that He has a particular plan, still unknown to us, but particular enough to close door after door after door.

It would be easy for me to mope (and trust me, I have my moments), but it is more important that I make an effort to trust God's ways. It's important for my kids to see me hoping in God's plans even when they are wildly different than my own. It's important for my husband to come home to a wife who does not crumble when daydreams do not turn into reality, a wife who strives to align her heart with God rather than self. It's important for my friends to know that I am committed to a life of serving the Lord and not to chasing selfish ambition or material possession.

None of these things are easy to do, and unless I really know God, they would be impossible. His Spirit is faithful though, putting thoughts in my mind, planting true hope in my heart, and bringing friends and family alongside to support us along our trail of broken models. We may never have a "better" home, or a bigger yard, or an easier life, but with every dashed model lies a glimmer of hope, a vision of God's hands becoming more and more active in the direction of our lives. While our minds are still lacking a vision for His plan, we see him rolling up His sleeves, moving things around and preparing our circumstances more specifically. I have such hope in being part of His glorious plan, that these innumerable closed doors seem more like preparation than rejection.

This summer I am getting loads of practice in letting the models of the life I want be crushed when I discover that God has a model all His own. I am becoming willing to throw them out and think of them no more. I am getting better at asking myself questions like "If my model is not God's model, then what am I really after?" and thinking more deeply about where my desires are rooted. I see more opportunities to be active in my daily life and spend less time building models that are soon to be broken down and tossed aside. I have more time to sit before the Lord, study His word, and align my heart with the model He is building for my life.

So how about you? Do you build models? Which model in your life are you clinging to? Which one has been the hardest to let go?

I share all of these thoughts, ideas, and experiences for several reasons. I want to be honest, and keep you updated. I also want you to see some of my weakness, to understand the back-and-forth of our decision-making. But mostly, I want you to become brave enough to willingly strike down and destroy the models you have built that do not honor the Lord. Do you desire a life God does not have planned for you? Are you willing to trade your model for His? Even if you aren't, admitting this is not news to Him. He already knows. But allowing yourself room to be honest is a brave first step, one I know God desires.

I may never be a pro at building the same model in my heart that God desires for me. I may never easily set those models aside without God doing the work of tearing them down. But I do want to be more courageous in watching Him take apart my shallow dreams, trusting His all-knowing plans will be more than enough to fill my heart and my life with joy. Are you willing to give up your model-building for joy? For contentment? For a better marriage, or a more fruitful (but possibly less productive) life? I might not always be willing, but I am today, and now is always a good time to begin.