Disappointments are to the soul what thunderstorms are to the air.
Johann C.F. von Schuller
I ran across this marvelous quote recently, and it resonated so deeply I felt I should write something relatively coherent about it.
Johann von Schuller was a German philosopher that lived around the same time as Beethoven. In fact, Beethoven said of his poetry that it was so beautiful and complex that when asked to set it to music, he didn’t even want to try, he felt he might do it a disservice.
No kidding. I’m chewing on this quote in 2013 and the guy died in 1805.
I love thunderstorms. Doesn’t everybody? I love the way the lightning zigzags across the sky and the deep boom of thunder. I love the sound of rain, and the clean, fresh smell the next morning after the storm has moved on. The storm electrifies the air, filling me with a sense of wonder at the mighty strength and power of it. I vacillate between awe and fear. Too much storm will result in devastation, but just the right amount can bathe the next day in bright-eyed clarity.
So it is with disappointment. When I have the temerity of soul to cast a global gaze backwards at my life, the disappointments far outnumber the celebrations. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but it certainly is true for me. I’m sad about it sometimes, but realistic and objective too, and in typical optimist-survivor fashion have tried to make lemonade from lemons and all that. Happily, I am swimming in lemonade right now, but this is not the point.
This is the point: I do not take one thing for granted anymore. Not one. A sea of disappointments has so clarified my focus that even the tiniest, loving moment is magnified a thousand times. A hand holding mine. A baby’s delighted laugh. A son’s successful day at work. A fifteen-minute conversation with a daughter that is emotionally honest. A husband’s caring gesture of concern when I am tired. A friend’s prayer for me. Twenty-five encouraging comments on Facebook in response to one of my posts.
Without disappointments, the air around me would be murky with what-ifs, muddled by not-good-enoughs, marred by unforgiveness. The disappointments have broken, humbled and softened me. They have prodded my ego into a semblance of submission and pounded my pride into a glob of malleable clay fit for shaping. Left to a life without disappointments, I fear I would be a sad mess of indiscriminate decisions based on how I feel rather than what is good and right and true.
So I thank God for the disappointments, and I thank God for His help in teaching me the right response to them. After one of life’s thunderstorms, my senses are at their peak. I can hear better, see more clearly, and confusion has fled. I am a super-charged tuning fork, on a mission to align my pitch.
For the record, lately there have been a few spring showers, but no downpours or flash floods. Lightning streaks across the sky once in a while, but it is short-lived. Fast and furious. Then the sun comes out.
I am hoping my soul will not need much more clarifying. I am optimistic that the collective result of a life lived aggressively has yielded a soul more ready to embrace simple pleasures, more willing to rest in gratitude than demand rights; content in the place it has earned in the sun.
I agree with Solomon’s words, another man who pondered life’s thunderstorms: “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is for one to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in all the labor in which he labors under the sun all the days that God gives him. Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, he is to enjoy them, accept his appointed lot and rejoice in his toil for this is a gift of God.” Ecc. 5: 19-20
Sounds pretty clarified to me. I’m with ya, Solomon.