Thursday, October 29, 2009

Car Trouble

My philosophy on cars is that they should be a convenience, not a nuisance. I have my car to make my life simpler and easier. To get me from one place to the next in a faster, more comfortable manner. All is well and little is thought about until... there's a problem. Until... that little light comes on, or you see smoke, or you hear something that even I would notice as very very wrong, or... it simply refuses to start. Car trouble is a pain.

The extent of my motor vehicle expertise ends with filling it up with gas and pretty accurately checking the oil. Oh yeah, and I can pop the hood with very few problems. I've had my fair share of car trouble. Thankfully, through my issues, I've always had people in my life to help me out. Someone I can rely on to open her up and make a diagnosis.

This past week, a friend of mine couldn't get her car to start. So... she called me. I'm not sure I was her most valuable life-line in her moment of need... but I offered what I could. I put together a team of myself, my brother, his two roommates, two cars, and a set of borrowed jumper cables. Together we ventured out in the pouring rain to her sad and sickly car.

To my amazement and satisfaction, we got her car to run.

Unfortunately, getting her car started that night did not guarantee it would agree to run the next day. The complication proved to be more complicated than our efforts could handle. We did what we could in that moment, but ultimately, something more thorough and complex needed to be done. She needed a mechanic, or someone even better for the job... her dad.

Yes, her dad made the five hour drive to revive her car. Now, she can start her car up with confidence and thankfulness.

As usual, situations like this make me think deeper about life. Aren't there times in your life when things just aren't quite right? When you are stuck out in the parking lot of life and can't seem to get anywhere? When you just want to get to the next place, but you simply can't?

This is when we often rely on those around us. We lean heavily on our friends, roommates, neighbors, anyone who will stand with us in the rain, in the struggle. Often this is very helpful. They give us the right words, the right shock of motivation. Things seem to start up, to light up, to get going again.

Yet sometimes this is not enough. Sometimes the efforts of others fall a bit short. Sometimes we have a more complicated problem. Sometimes we need someone else. Sometimes we need our dad.

We need the One in our lives who will provide a more thorough fix. The One who cares enough to make all things right. To give us a new and lasting confidence and momentum.

So I urge you, next time you are struggling. Next time you are stuck. Don't settle for the temporary start-up that can come from those around you. Call on your Father. Your Heavenly father. The One who knows, who loves, who satisfies. He will come. He will heal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dealing with Disappointment

I have an intense and out of control fear of disappointment. I hate the thought of disappointing myself and or others. I know this about myself and I still can't seem to find a healthy way to handle it.

My method to avoid disappointment is to simply prepare for it. I think the worst, I plan for failure, I refuse to wish too strongly, hope too deeply or feel too much. In doing this, I can never be disappointed, right? If I tell myself that things are not going to turn out, then I won't be crushed when things fall apart, right?

This character flaw extends to nearly every aspect of life. School, relationships, activities, ambitions, etc. If I expect to do poorly on every paper I write, I can only feel better about myself when I don't fail, but get a B. If I tell myself that this relationship will never really work out, I won't be devastated when things in fact do turn sour. If I tell those around me that I'm a horrible dodgeball player, then I won't be disappointing them when I get out right away. If I convince myself that I most likely won't be accepted into this or that program or receive certain praise, then I won't have to experience a sense of let down or disappointment when it doesn't come to be.

I guess the question I'm asking myself is this: does this preparedness for failure and disappointment really work? Does it hurt any less? Is this a good idea?

Part of me wants to say, "no." No, this doesn't work. I still hurt when things don't work out for the best. I still experience disappointment to its fullest and cruelest extent. I receive my paper on the verge of tears and walk away from a relationship with my pride no where in sight. It's miserable, it's messy and it's not working. Yet, this is all I know. I'm not brave enough to allow myself to think differently, positively. So, I lie to myself, convincing myself that this does work. That this is the best way. The only way.

Now that I'm trying to think realistically and honestly, what am I supposed to do?

Am I supposed to do a "perspective 180" and believe in all I do and in all that could be in the light that no wrong could ever come? That there is no chance of failure, let down or disappointment? This doesn't seem completely appropriate either.

So maybe... maybe I need to stop predicting. Stop assessing what my chances for success or failure are. Maybe I just need to be me, give my all, do my best and take the outcome for what it is. Maybe I should stop pre-judging my situations. No more 0% chance of success or 100% chance of success. How about I just live and take the results for what they are.

This will also involve a reevaluation of what it means to fail. Parker Palmer writes, "Embrace it all - and find in all of it opportunities for growth" (Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, 96). Instead of seeing things as black or white, disappointment or satisfaction... maybe I just need to see it as life. Take what I'm given, embrace it, and grow. Find in it opportunities. Opportunities to learn, live deeper and see clearer. Be confident. Not simply confident that you will "succeed," but confident that you are enough. That no matter what the result... things are okay! Throw away the scale of disappointment and learn to accept what you are given with grace, peace, contentment and joy.