What to Do When You Keep Disappointing Yourself
There are some things that I'm just not good at.
I once had to ask my father-in-law for help changing my wiper blades.
Not "Dad, can you spare a twelve-gauge crescent wrench so I can personally fix my canuter valve? I think the flange gasket must have gone bad"...
...but "Dad, I don't know how these two pieces of plastic intersect so I don't have any more streaks on my windshield."
That's not the manliest thing to ask help for. He was happy to serve while I stood there, but I felt like a kid watching another kid eat an ice cream cone I didn't know how to lick.
There are other things like this that I don't do well no matter how hard I try.
- Ironing. I can't tell you how thankful I am for my wife's ability to put creases into things. Anytime I try to iron I end up making the wrinkles look like better wrinkles. When I was single I bought bottles of Spray and Starch so I could chemically-shock my clothes into stiffness. Their stock dropped after I got married.
- Fully cook a steak: Years ago when I was dirt poor I bought a steak for a special occasion, burned it, and had to throw it away. I've been paranoid since then that I'll burn another one so I tend to under-cook steaks. Even though I've realized this and add extra time to be sure it's properly done, I find after cutting into it that it's still "mooing."
- Swim: I can float across the pool just fine. How I do it is another story. Somewhere early on in life I developed an odd way of moving through water with my head above it, like a Kardashian who doesn't want to get her hair wet. The only way I avoid this is when I wear a nose plug, but no one looks cool with a nose plug (believe me, I've tried).
- Throw a football: I know how to throw a spiral. Still, I can't seem to get the ball where I want it to go. No matter how often I play every fundamental in my head, I end up throwing like a nerdy fourth grader. Which brings me to my next item...
- Penmanship: I once found a paper I wrote from fourth grade. Sadly, my penmanship today is the same. Fourth grade penmanship, man--thank the Lord for computers.
And then there's the bigger stuff with life and faith that I don't do well.
Like anybody, I don't always make the right decisions and easily get distracted in my relationship with God. Sometimes I'm being self-centered, or other times I don't get around to doing things I really need to do. Either way, it's disappointing.
If you've ever wondered what to do when you keep disappointing yourself, I can relate.
It's not the easiest thing to talk about though, is it?
When I'm falling short in faith, I tend to react in one of two ways:
Reaction #1: I Pose
I'm reminded of a young girl I saw standing near a group of teenagers at a bus stop on the first day of school. She wore a new all-pink outfit like what the “cool kids" wear.
She was purposefully standing five feet away from the other kids with her right arm in a perfect angle, resting on her cocked hip and exuding all kinds of attitude. It was as if someone said to her, "We're shooting an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, so could you stand in a huffy pose as we drive by?"
I've sometimes felt like that teen. When I saw her, a part of me thought, "Yep, I get it. As long as I have the right attitude and dress it up, I can hide how insecure I feel." I'm falling short but acting like I'm not. That's a weird place to live mentally and emotionally.
Reaction #2: I Praise
In contrast to posing, I'm learning that the better pathway through disappointment is to get a larger perspective. I gain this best by spending time with God through prayer, worship music, church, and more. For me, this is more than going through the motions. I like what Francis Chan said - "We can all get into some kind of routine in our prayers... [think about] what would be the first words the moment you saw God in all of His glory? That's what should come out of our mouths when we pray."
When we remember who God is by praising him, we realize what he's capable of doing in our lives in the everyday moments. Even the disappointments in our lives can become a spiritual thing, for "that's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Praise like this is specific. It's confessional. It's invitational. It's supernatural and it's natural.
Maybe coming before God isn't on your to-do list. Perhaps your upbringing, baggage, or unmet prayers in the past make you wonder if it's worth it.
I'd offer that God loves you. Just as parents want their kids to come to them when they're down or doubting themselves, so God invites us to come to him.
Everybody makes mistakes. It's impossible to get through life (let alone your day) without messing up several times. This is only a problem if we fail to learn from those mistakes or let them define us. We can't give up on ourselves or our potential because of our failures.
When we're tired of life feeling like a blurry windshield, let's go to God and let him install some upgrades.
He loves us, which means all things are still possible even in our failures.
No posing required.