Thursday, November 29, 2007

UNC rejects me (or the more emo-sounding "A year of sunsets.")

UNC rejects me (or the more emo-sounding “A year of sunsets.”)

I do not remember the day that I got my rejection letter from the University of North Carolina. That moment did not crystallize, me standing at a cold Massachusetts mailbox with a much too thin envelope clutched in my teenage fist as I cursed the clouds above. That would have been dramatic, but I am not sure that’s how it happened.

My father went to UNC. My mother went to UNC. My uncle went to UNC. I was supposed to go to UNC. I grew up loving tarheel basketball and hating Duke. (By the way, good to see that Duke was able to fill their quota of “awkward looking white guy that is surprisingly good” this year.)

I grew up throwing Frisbee on the Carolina campus and dreaming about wearing that shade of blue for four perfect years. But then I got rejected.

I thought about that moment last night, because for some reason it hit me—there are some things I want that I will simply never have. Experiences or possessions or friendships that will for a host of reasons never really be mine. And I have a hard time rectifying that reality with my limitless God.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever realized that a dream you have is sunsetting instead of sunrising? Ending instead of beginning? Maybe it’s a job promotion you killed yourself for that slipped through your fingers. It was yours. It was meant to be. You had sacrificed so much and then it just disappeared.

More than likely though, it was a moment of love unreturned. Have you ever loved someone that would not love you back? Maybe it was that guy you were supposed to be with. When you were around him you felt this strange mixture of being stirred up inside but at the same time feeling as if you were home. He laughed like you laughed. He shined in the same way you shined.

He was the one in a world full of not the ones. But it didn’t happen.

He fell in love with someone else. Someone not named you. And despite your best hopes that particular dream ended.

What then? Where does that leave God? What if that desire wasn’t something you hid from him? What if it were something you prayed about fervently and patiently? What then?

I wrestle with this sometimes and the next few sentences are just my thoughts, not some deep biblical exploration. I didn’t go to seminary. The only Hebrew I know is “Oy Vey” and the only Greek I know is that I didn’t get into a fraternity.

But what I am starting to think is that disappointment, sunset moments, only point to how bright my sunrise really is. Throughout the bible, we are told that God knows our true desires, those things we really need above all else. And in his midst we find our satisfaction. So when I experience something that hurts, an expectation that was unmet, maybe what I should think is, “If that felt good at first and that’s not the thing that God has planned for me, how amazing is that thing going to be?”

There’s a verse in Psalm 103 that kind of makes me think about that. It describes God as he “who satisfies your desires with good things.” So when I get rejected from UNC, a place I thought was a good thing, I can’t help but think, “If that wasn’t the good thing, just imagine what is.” In that particular case it was Samford University. And my wife. And my eventual children.

The challenge in all that though is being honest about the things that burn. The good things that turned out to not be the good things after all. I think God wants to dialogue about the desires we have that didn’t get met. I think he wants to hear you say, “God, I want to die when I see Bill and his fiancé. That should be me.” I think he wants us to be honest about those things so that he can reveal our true good things to us.

Most of the time I don’t know if anything I write makes sense. It feels like when I put things down on paper they tangle even more than when they are in my head. Maybe that is the case here.

But if I could clarify this whole idea in one sentence, I think that sentence would read: “When we give our desires and our disappointments to God, he uses both to amplify the good things he has for us.”


S. Todd Young said...

Jon, I'm trying to catch up on my Google Reader unread blog posts, and I just read this. I agree; we can look back on life and realize that the things God is doing in us and through us hinged on God not saying "yes" to all our prayers. Two passages of Scripture seem to surface in my mind over and over regarding this topic:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28)

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)

God wrote history long ago, and we must trust him, even with our failures! May Christ be glorified!


Rebeccamh said...

This is incredible. Its an entirely different perspective on how to view disappointment. I remember when I heard for the first time "Sometimes when you pray for things, God says no." And its not necessarily because he doesn't want me to have those things. It's usually because what he has in store for me is so much more.

WV: redlici - the slang on the streets for red licorice.