In So Many Words
Each of us could write a book on disappointments, because there are so many in our lives. In Pakistan, I have found that disappointments abound more than I've experienced in any other country I've lived in as a Columban missionary. There are many examples to choose. So many electrical power cuts come suddenly and prevent me from doing necessary research on the internet; numerous appointments are made and not kept; classes and programs are requested and cancelled or changed at the last moment after many hours of preparation work. Unexpected political or religious protests take place that disrupt traffic and make it impossible to reach destinations; buses, planes and trains can be cancelled or delayed for hours on end. A favorite meal I was looking forward to turns out to be quite different. The list could go on.
All of these have enabled me to live more peacefully and patiently most of the time.
For some time, I've been reflecting on my disappointments and asking myself what it is that helps me to cope with them. Several answers have come to mind. Lowering my expectations is one. This has helped me to avoid being frustrated when things haven't work out as I had hoped. Acceptance of human limitations is another. It has helped me to be more tolerant of my own as well as those of others. A third is recognition of the fact that God has His own timing of things, and if something doesn't work out at a particular time, another opportunity will be provided that will be better still. A fourth is to tell myself to let go, let be, and let begin. All of these have enabled me to live more peacefully and patiently most of the time.
In addition to what I have already said, I would add one more significant help in dealing with disappointments. I found it in a book by Redemptorist priest Denis McBride called Waiting on God. His references to people in the Bible, including Jesus, and in the modern world, who waited for the circumstances and events of God's plan to enfold, have given me a deep sense of peace and strength. He ends the book with these words:
It is still quiet at the back of the darkened sanctuary where the old woman sits huddled and waiting. The sanctuary light is still flickering. The old woman watches and she serves and she prays. Sometimes she is both faithful and hopeful. Sometimes she is not. But still she waits. The old woman's name is Church.
Columban Fr. Joseph Joyce lives and works in Pakistan.