My oldest loves the game Guess Who. Let’s be real: I love Guess Who. I used to go to a neighbor’s house as a kid, go down to her basement, and specifically request to play Guess Who. Back when commercials were still part of our daily TV viewing, I remember seeing the commercial for the game, thinking it looked out-of-this-world amazing.
Yet, whenever my oldest asks me to play Guess Who, it feels like it is always the worst time. The most inconvenient time. Or I’m exhausted and can’t imagine trying to play a game after a long day. He asks in expectation. More often than I want to admit, I say no. A game we both love.
The thing about being human is that disappointment is unavoidable. Whether we’re disappointed in others or disappointing others, we’re just not great at holding up our end of the bargain. It doesn’t mean we aren’t good. It means we aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. If we’re reaching to please everyone we know, we’ll be left burned out and frustrated that we failed (because we inevitably will).
The thing about God is that He is not like us. I think about the many criticisms laid against the Church, and it’s clear that they are criticisms of Its people. We have not done well to show the world what Jesus is like. Instead, we’ve shown them a washed down version of Him, a one-upping of ourselves that is based on a desire to please rather than a desire to love.
I laid in bed last night thinking about this. The disappointment. The sorrow of trusting humanity to fulfill our need and desire for purpose. We’ve seen pastors and leaders fall rapidly to their own disappointing faults, and we’ve seen all of us criticize each other. It’s what we’re best at. That, alongside criticizing the world, the government, our neighbors, ourselves, etc. In a world like this one, and often in a Church like the one we see now, disappointment and criticism go hand-in-hand.
While I never sought out to disappoint my oldest son because I didn’t want to play a board game, I did anyway. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom. Not in the slightest. It does mean I’m human, and falling short when it comes to the expectations of others is just part of the gig. I’ll make it up to my son because I love him.
This differs greatly from God. It is not possible for Him to disappoint us. It is not possible for Him to fail us or fall short when it comes to our expectations of Him. If He does, we’re not trusting, loving, relying on, or following God. We’re following our own idea of Him.
When we read the Bible, it’s full of stories of humanity interacting with a holy God. Never once does God fail. Humanity does. It’s our calling card. Even the most revered characters in the Bible are huge failures in multiple areas of their life. David is known for slaying a giant, but he also raped a woman and killed her husband (2 Samuel 11). Paul spread the Gospel far and wide, but he also persecuted and slaughtered Christians in the name of the Law (Acts 9).
You know who changes absolutely everything for us? Jesus. His work redeems us from our failings, our unavoidable disappointments. While following Him doesn’t mean we never make a mistake again, it does mean we have a higher standard to live up to.
God does not disappoint. People disappoint. It’s a remarkable difference.
The standard of our humility is on trial here. It is a sorrowful view when a person who leads us doesn’t have the wherewithal to recognize their inability to please each and every one of us. The sorrow snakes throughout the Church when we put our faith in people and not in an unfailing Creator. The sorrow leaks out and taints our witness. What should always be a reflection of Jesus quickly becomes a reflection of an ever-disappointing viewpoint of us.
Phew. It’s worth mentioning that we are not inherently bad. We were made to be good. It’s written in the first few words of the Word, and it’s written in the first few moments of our life. Our nature is a broken one, but at our core, we are good and worthy of being good. Disappointment doesn’t have to be our calling card or even our bloodline. Redemption can be. Humility should be. Love must be.
From beneath the surface, everything looks like sorrow. The view is coated in stains. But above the water, above the murky and suffocating nature, is real beauty. Real glory and freedom. We could rest in our disappointment, of ourselves and others. But I would rather now. We can’t forget the God who loved us first, loves us each second, loves us til the end.
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…for great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.
David, 1 Chronicles 16:15, 25-27