The psalmist said, “I have been young, and now am old . . .” (Psalm 37:25), and that is how I feel. “Fifty” is not over the hill, but it is surely down the road—and now that I am down that road I see things a lot differently than I did when my shoes were new and I hadn’t broken a sweat. Back then I was filled with convictions that have lasted and idealisms that have not.
I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is God’s Son, the One who made atonement for sin and exemplifies righteousness, that the Bible is God’s Word revealed to us in perfection and sufficiency, that heaven and hell are real, and that God’s glory is the only thing worth fighting for. But I am less convinced about methods—mine or yours. I am not persuaded that my way is the only way, or even the best one in some instances, and I have lost my naivete about people. I frequently doubt when a person expresses their sincerity, their longevity in leadership, or their commitment to do as they say they will. It’s so shocking to look back and see how frequently people are excited about accountability until they are the one who needs it.
And it’s not just others I am disappointed with, it’s myself. I see how often I have failed to be all that I wanted to be for God and for others. Without question my biggest disappointment is with people—you and me, the whole bunch of us. On our best day we are incredibly flawed, and the harder a sincere person tries to push the blame on others the more they should feel the weight of their own short comings . . . what “I” should have done differently.
But here’s the thing: give others the grace you know you need and move on in the lessons you have learned. Too much navel gazing and wallowing in disappointment hinders the work of God in and through you. The Christian life requires, “forgetting those things which are behind.” (Phil 3:13) If your focus is on the rearview mirror today, I challenge you to “lift your eyes” to the road ahead and leave your disappointment with people behind you. HOW???
Jesus had disappointments with people, right? With the religious leaders who attacked him, with the family members who first rejected him then fought for their own prominence when his popularity was on the rise. Where were they at the cross? Then the disciples—Peter denied, Judas betrayed, the rest ran when the Savior needed them most. Or did he? Of course Jesus loved people, but did he need them? An interesting verse in the opening of John is a lesson I could have used a lot earlier.
After many were flocking to Jesus and “believing in Him,” John 2:24-25 says: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
Jesus was neither cynical nor naive. He loved people without entrusting himself to them and he served people with out exposing himself to their faults or failures. Are we so attached to one another that we set ourselves up to be shattered when the inevitability of our fallenness comes to the surface? Are we so in need of affirmation and acceptance that we find ourselves ‘wheels up’ in the ditch when a friend or colleague denies or betrays? Loving people, yes. Living in community, yes. But attaching ourselves to people in a way that we lose our footing in following Jesus when they stumble or trip us up? No!
Let’s fix our eyes squarely upon the only one worth following—praising God for the blessing of people, but refusing to attach ourselves in a way that puts our faith/following at risk. Looking back, if I had been a little less euphoric in the glory days with any particular person, I would have been less crushed by disappointment when I discovered their feet of clay . . . no doubt they would say the same of me. Only Jesus on the pedestal, the rest of us on level ground, looking up. That’s how I deal with disappointment.
John 21:21: Peter . . . said to Jesus, “Lord what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “. . . What is that to you? You follow me!”