Picking up the broken pieces of disappointment (and saving them for later)

When I first started grad school about two years ago now, I am telling you, I was so revved up.  After a seven-year hiatus from school, I was excited to be in the classroom again, learning and growing, maybe in more challenging ways than ever before.  I was excited to build these natural relationships with classmates and professors – especially in a program as small as ours (and with a bunch of people who are also passionate about relationships!).  I was excited to explore this new field that was all about helping people bring healing and restoration to their lives and families.

But now, with my cap and gown tucked away in my closet and job applications looming before me…I can’t help but feel a lot of disappointment and disillusionment with how everything has ended up thus far.

For whatever reason, it seems like in every area – academically, socially, professionally – things have simply not been what I had hoped they’d be.  And though I’ve met some stellar therapists and so many genuine, caring people in our field, I’ve also come face to face with more unprofessionalism, arrogance, and inauthenticity than I had ever planned to see so early on.  Sometimes the people who, on one level, passionately advocate for the hurting and marginalized, are the same people who, in other areas of life, are contributing to the very systems that perpetuate those things.  And sometimes it seems like helping others through therapy has just as much become a means to self-promotion and power as any other profession we know.

So as I’ve begun to process all of this, I’ve had to ask myself some really hard questions

Is this the kind of work I want to pour my heart and life into?  Does what we do really bring about lasting change in people and communities?  Will I be able to find my place in this profession, in a way that is meaningful and that truly impacts lives?

And though I don’t fully understand why things have happened the way they have, when I’ve finally had a quiet moment alone to reflect, and to remember what’s true, I know in my heart that the answer to all of these questions…is a resounding “yes.”

I know that every part of my journey and my heart longs to see redemption and restoration in the lives around us.  I know that, while there’s a lot of stuff in psychology we can filter out, there is also something important about this work we do, something valuable about making people seen, known, heard, and accepted.  I know there’s something so very beautiful about giving attention to the broken places in our stories, that they might become the places of strength, resilience, and inspiration.  And I know, this is what I want to be a part of.

A few days ago, as I was wrestling with such thoughts as these, I came across a familiar passage in the Bible – the one about Jesus feeding the 5,000.  But this one part that I never really noticed before struck a chord with me.  Jesus had just provided miraculously for the crowd by feeding them an abundant feast out of a few meager loaves and fishes.  In fact, after everyone had eaten, there were even baskets full of leftovers.  So, what does this God say, who with no trouble at all, can create something out of nothing?

He tells His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

Sometimes God provides us with more resources, more passion or hope, more gifts than we can use at the time.  And while to us, it may seem like a waste, or a disappointment, God already has in mind how these “leftovers” might be used in the future.

Who knows how our broken pieces of disappointment or unmet hopes may be the seeds of something else – something wonderful, something redemptive, something that is important and worthwhile…something God is stirring within and bringing forth at the appointed time. Maybe through some of these discouraging experiences I’ve had, He’s directing my passions and preparing me for places and opportunities I would have never expected.  Maybe it’s just not time to put to use all of the riches of His abundant provision.

I don’t know what your journey has looked like thus far, or what disappointments have arisen out of your life and circumstances, but whatever dreams, longings, or gifts remain unused, may you rest in the joy of knowing that they have been gathered up and treasured…that in the end, no thing that comes from God’s hand may be lost.