If you have ever tried to build a piece of furniture, or anything for that matter, you know the feeling… you get done and look at your accomplishment and say, “That did not turn out quite like I expected.” When I first started learning how to build furniture it happened all the time. I went into projects with grand expectations, but later have to face a disappointing outcome.
This doesn’t just happen in woodworking…
I took a job for a company and in a place that I thought would be a great place to work and live with my family…it turns out the workplace is dysfunctional and the community can be rather unwelcoming.
There are other examples. I set up times to meet with other men in the area to foster a brotherhood where we can help motivate each other to strive for virtue, but work schedules change and the regular meetings fall by the wayside.
Or the most difficult of all, I try to live a marriage that is centered on the Lord and His Church by having regular prayer time and Mass together as a family. Life with kids is anything but regular and Mass together feels more like herding cats into a dryer than being in the presence of Lord of life.
The feeling of disappointment is real and the effects can be dramatic. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands in the air wondering what is the point of it all. The question that begins to go through my head is, “Lord, why did you lead me down this path only to bring me here?” It can get pretty dark and sound strikingly similar to Job in the Old Testament, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?…Remember that my life is like the wind, I shall not see happiness again.” (Job 7:1,7)
I was talking to a priest friend of mine and was telling him about these disappointments and frustrations and his response was, “sounds like you need to zoom out a bit.” He explained that it is easy at times to have the camera lens of our life zoomed so far in on disappointments/frustrations that it nearly impossible to see the big picture. He told me that I need to zoom out and get the wide angle view. My next question was, “Well, how do I do that?”
We came up with three ideas to help “zoom out.” Maybe they’ll help you see the big picture too:
- Start with Gratitude. I attempt to start everyday with a “thank you.” “Thank you for my wife. Thank you for my kids. Thank you for my job and the people that I meet at my job. Thank you for my home. Thank you for of the things that I need to do today. Thank you Lord!” This seemed kind of shallow and insincere when I first started it, but as I have continued to practice it I have found myself filled with more gratitude throughout the day. Interestingly I also find that when I begin to slip in this practice I am more easily disappointed and frustrated.
- Have brothers/friends to help you see the big picture. It takes work to build friendships that you can “vent” to, but can also expect brotherly challenge and encouragement. The work is worth it.
- Look at things from my deathbed. This one may sound a little morbid, but hey we are in this battle for the long haul, which as a Christian means that we are in it for a haul that is even longer than death. This practice is helpful to me when I start to feel overwhelmed by life. The kids are screaming. My wife is having a tough day and I find myself right in the middle of it. My boss is giving me a correction that I do not think is my fault. I try to think about these things from my deathbed. How will I look back on these events? In the end it only matters in so far as it will matter at that point and the moment shortly after when I hopefully see the Lord face to face.
If you are anything like me you search for wisdom or encouragement or something to help with disappointments and letdowns. I’m not sure a simple tidbit is out there to cure the blues, but these small things have had a big impact for me by putting things in right order, beginning with my perception of reality. If life has you down, maybe give them a shot.
Peace on the journey!