The time came to put decorations on the walls after moving into our new house. Usually I’m a “let’s do this quick” kind of person, so I was tempted to haphazardly hammer nails into the wall. But this time, I was determined to do it right.
“Right” according to Pinterest means hanging butcher paper in place of the artwork. Doing so allows a “just right” placement to be found without putting unnecessary holes in the wall. Though it went against every fiber of my being, I slowed down and completed this thorough process.
Oddly enough, having paper on my walls proved quite exciting. I began to envision my frames, artwork, and decorative pieces warming my home. I left the paper up for days, maybe even weeks. In that time, I became convinced my home would be everything I always dreamed it would be.
Finally, the day for hanging my decorations arrived (i.e., the day my husband could help me). Each piece went up, one at a time… but unexpected disappointment slowly bubbled up with each one. The perfection I had built up in my mind was far from actualized. In this instance, the anticipation of a possibility proved far more enjoyable than it’s reality.
Invigorating Possibilities Welcome Disappointing Realities
As I processed this unforeseen letdown, the (much) greater disappointments of life came to mind. We’ve all looked to the future with lofty expectations, only to find various degrees of dissatisfaction along the way. Yet, the “better life” (and whatever that means to each of us) always seems just around the corner.
Perhaps this is why we remember childhood being so magical. Not only was everything simpler as a kid, but life abounded with possibilities. Who we’d marry, what career we’d have, where we’d travel, what adventures were in store–it was all unknown. The anticipation of the possible was invigorating!
As adults, the options are fewer. More than that, some “possibilities” have come to pass and we’ve found they weren’t everything we hoped for. The newly married couple realizes marriage takes work and sacrifice. The missionary learns serving cross-culturally isn’t as dreamy as the biographies describe. Holiday celebrations aren’t all Norman Rockwell moments. Ministry endeavors come with unexpected heartache. Distant dreams and goals never seem to pan out as perfectly as we envision. Life, as a whole, carries a twinge of “let down.”
Undoubtedly, some aspects of life do meet our expectations. Some changes do, in actuality, make life better. But the honest soul recognizes life is not all it should be.
In a day and age when money back guarantees are common, we expect life to “work right.” We expect our expectations to be met. But the problem is, we live in a world that’s broken and hasn’t worked quite right since Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). In this broken world, relationships aren’t all they should be (Galatians 5:15, 26). Work is not all it’s supposed to be (Genesis 3:17-19). Ministry happens among imperfect people (Psalm 53:2-3). Even the minds we use to process life are marred (Jeremiah 17:9).
Therefore, the problem does not lie in our expectation of good experiences; the problem lies in this world’s inability to adequately meet those expectations. We are made for a different world (2 Peter 3:13). Sin messed this one up, but the new, eternal, perfect one, is coming (Romans 8:18-25). It will provide everything we long for.
As C.S Lewis famously said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” And that, we are.
The Best is Yet to Come
The Christian life is good, fulfilling, and full of joy, but we are not yet home, and deep down we know it. And if we forget, the reminder will come when life’s “artwork” goes up and it’s not the perfection we hoped for.
But a day will come when all that we crave in this life will not be lacking (Revelation 21:1-7). Enjoyment, peace, fellowship, beauty, joy, fulfillment — every good expectation will be met, and superseded, in its entirety.
In that day, the King will say “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:33-34). After all, there’s no question that the God who created us and designed our soul’s deepest longings, knows how to prepare a home that will thoroughly satisfy.
Enjoy what God gives you today, but when the unexpected disappointment bubbles up, don’t get worked up. When life falls short of your hopes, don’t even be surprised. Instead, may it push you to long for the place in which you will never meet disappointment. Look to eternity, like you would to butcher paper on the walls–knowing it will, in fact, be the home you always dreamed of. Soon everything truly will be “just right.”