Haiku is not a poetry form that comes naturally to me, but sometimes haiku distills great truth into a few syllables like this one from Sally Lyda:
I would have you fair,
noble, kind. You are not these?
Still I would have you.
When one has lived to my, some might say ripe, old age, one has had occasion to face disappointments in relationships. What I’ve concluded recently is that most of the disappointments I’ve experienced were my own fault. I’ve set myself up for them by expecting from someone what they were unable or never intended to provide.
Our expectations of others probably fall into several categories. For today I’m considering three of the following designed-to-fail expectations.
Persons created out of fiction:
The most obvious of these expectations occurring to me is the young bride, filled with fantasies of a romantic Brad Pitt look-a-like who acts like the new preacher in town in a Karen Kingsbury novel, attending to her every need and whim. When she has a headache he comes home from a job he can leave bearing flowers and candy, spending the evening sitting at her side, popping grapes into her rosebud mouth.
Her disappointment is guaranteed because she will discover that he wakes up looking and smelling like a wet dog and can go long periods of time without one thought of her entering his mind. If she’s blessed to be married to an employed person, it might be a couple of years before he can get two weeks of vacation. He’s plumb tuckered out when he gets home after a long day of work and is not in the mood for a dinner she’s prepared after an inattentive viewing of a Rachel Ray show on HGTV.
Of course the bride is not the only one who is disappointed and deserves to be. While he was dating, he wouldn’t even look at a girl who was anything less than pageant material. Imagine his surprise when it turns out that the young woman who spent her youth perfecting the application of eye-liner and knows every word of all of Beyonce’s hits gives him a blank stare when he asks her who she likes in the Senate race.
As time tests this young couple, their unrealistic expectations will eventually lead to a split-up unless each of them comes to the conclusion that in spite of the disappointments, they would rather have each other than go on looking for what can never be.
Speaking from the experience of more than fifty satisfying years of marriage, I can attest that there’s nothing quite like shared, authentic history.
Persons created in our own homes:
These disappointments become more challenging as we go along. In the natural progression of things, the next subject is our children.
In my opinion, our disappointments here aren’t as well-deserved as they are when they are based on fictional characters. These characters eat at our table, use up our finances and sap our energy. We are entitled, are we not, to expect some positive feedback from these people?
During my brief and frustrating career as a clerk in a Christian book store, I spotted the title Children are Wet Cement. I never read the book. Not meaning to insult the author, and without getting into the “nature vs. nurture” debate, even then, when I was much younger, I concluded the writer did not have grown children. Early influences are a powerful factor in building character, but anybody who has children knows they come with “stuff.”
I think we naturally assume that our children would turn out to embody the best of each of us. But what if they don’t? What if they show up with a stubborn nature we don’t recognize in either of us? What if they lie to us? And what if they do seem a lot like us, but not our best attributes?
Going farther back in my own story, there was a time I taught Sunday school to seventh and eighth grade girls. What an age!
I remember two young ladies in particular. Jerilyn and Janet. Both of them were at war with their mothers, an age-appropriate state of affairs. The funny part is that in their rebellion and anger, they were just like their mothers, only more so; Janet, a hippie mad at her literary, unconventional mother, and Jerilyn, wearing too-tight clothing and applying her make-up with a trowel to spite her mother whose wardrobe, cosmetics and dyed-red hair, signaled an old hussy gone to seed. Both of their mothers were highly frustrated.
May I suggest we back off from that Dick and Jane and Spot fantasy and take a good look at those people around our table? Look into your child’s eyes and listen. Let her reveal to you the amazing, uniquely created in the image of God that she is. Hear her heart. And Dad, maybe you won’t be watching your son score the winning touchdown. Maybe he’s a computer nerd—they’re all the rage these days, you know. Or maybe you wanted him to be the rocket scientist you are—can you celebrate the healthy young athlete he is?
Our children should never seem like a disappointment to us. If we’re tempted to go in that direction it would be far better to embrace who they are and then recognize that our only disappointment is in our unrealistic expectations. We wouldn’t want our kids to be anybody except who they are.
My sons, my daughter, I would have YOU!
Persons created in our understanding of New Testament Christianity:
Here I’m going to back off a bit from my own culpability in disappointments. This is the most painful category in my experience.
Perhaps…well, no, for sure, I’m naïve when it comes to “the church,” that earthly picture of the Body of Christ. When people say they are believers, born-again Christians, my first reaction is to trust them. I’m a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, and I’m still human, bent to sinning, so I don’t expect them to be perfect. I go galloping merrily into a new situation, arms open wide, ready to “join God where He is at work.” (Thank you Henry Blackaby.)
It rocks my world, then, when someone in whom I’ve invested my trust and confidence turns out to be false. I’m especially sensitive to someone lying to me, especially as concerns another Christian. Given my own weaknesses, I suppose I should be more tolerant. I find especially objectionable and have written people off for not exactly lying but giving a false impression or making a transparently untrue excuse.
Am I sorry for my naïveté? Do I wish to become more suspicious so that I won’t assume someone is a friend until she proves she is not false?
No, but if I remain rigid in my qualifications, I’ll have a lonely life. I need to remember that each individual I meet has a story of his or her own. Their stories might help me understand why they feel they must shield the truth from me. Perhaps there’s something emanating from me that threatens their sense of safety.
“The Church,” however we define that term, is intrinsic to the whole Christian experience. During a recent photography convention, my attention was drawn to a tripod. What a metaphor for the Christian life! Fellowship (church) is one leg of the tripod, personal prayer time another, and Scripture reading the third. A solid, balanced life in Christ depends on these three essentials. We can’t opt out of being related to other believers.
Yes, I would have you fair, noble and kind, but you’re not. Still, I would have you.