This past week seemed to bring a number of disappointments in my world. So much so that I was starting to believe that there was something wrong with me! Why do people keep disappointing me? How come disappointing situations continue to come my way? Am I disappointing others too? I had no answers--only questions.
So I did what a lot of us do when disappointments roll our way: I let them disappoint me. I let them not only impact the moment, but also the hour, and then the day. By the end of the week, disappointment had not only come knocking on my door, but it had set up shop and decorated...all with my permission.
But disappointment also did something else: It stopped me in my tracks. It stopped me from receiving what these heartbreaks and setbacks held for me. Fr. Richard Rohr says that, "Heartbreaks, disappointments and even our own weaknesses can serve as stepping-stones to the second half of life transformation. Failings are the foundation for growth. Those who have fallen, failed or 'gone down' are the only ones who understand 'up."
Which makes me wonder, if heartbreak and disappointment are inevitable--and they are because we are human. And if we have at least some power to choose a response in the face of disappointment and setbacks--and many times, we do. Why not begin to view disappointment and heartbreak not as signals to stop and hunker down in them, but instead as invitations to get curious? What might this disappointment have for me? How might it be asking me to grow? What transformation might result from this failure or this heartbreak?
The holiday season is often filled with disappointments, setbacks, and heartbreaks. The dinner that didn't go just right. The family that will not welcome your spouse to the table. The gift that got lost in the mail. The loved one who is no longer living, leaving an empty chair around the table. Spending yet another holiday alone. Whatever the disappointment, whatever the heartbreak this season, maybe we can practice receiving them as first steps toward transformation--toward healing, wholeness, and life right here on this side of heaven?
Receiving disappointments with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.