Not What I Signed Up For

While I was back in California over the holidays, I got stood up.
I was supposed to meet a friend, but it just felt like things weren’t working out. Emails took a while getting returned. Schedules didn’t seem to be meshing. Finally, we nailed down a time, and when I got there, he didn’t show.

My friend didn’t intentionally ditch me. I’m not sure what happened, but he had sent a late email saying he was going to be late, but I didn’t check for that so close to leaving, and even though I waited around a while, it apparently wasn’t long enough.  So I didn’t get to see my friend this trip.

Of course, the time didn’t feel like a complete waste. There was something about that space that was actually really necessary. I sat outside the coffee shop, waiting around with nothing to do, nothing to distract myself. I just waited and thought about … well, whatever came to mind, sometimes chatting with God, sometimes just musing to myself.

There is a sort of assumption in American culture, an unconscious value that seeps into quite a bit of how we tend to live our lives. It’s the assumption that getting what you want is good and not getting what you want is bad. I think on some level, that’s a simple equality that’s wired into our nature from when we’re really young, but it needs to get a bit more nuanced over time. Many times, though, it feels like that nuance isn’t there, and we just get frustrated at not getting what we want.

Not that getting what you want is bad! I grew up feeling like wanting things could be pretty dangerous. If I went after something, but it got in the way of someone else, I was in trouble. I learned that wanting was bad. I still default to that sometimes. My wife might suggest more often than sometimes…

But on the other hand, many people react quite quickly to not getting what they want. They feel slighted and cheated. They become angry or dejected. We’re an entitled culture, overall, and we’ve equated the object of our desire as always good.

Well, I didn’t get what I wanted that day. My friend and I didn’t get to see each other. But I got something else. And it was only after I got it that I realized it was a good thing. I got what I needed.

Sometimes I guess we need to step back and see how much we’re tying together what we want with our understanding of what’s good. Sometimes not getting what we want can be a far greater good than we know, and how much could we be missing out on that God intends for us if we’re caught up in satisfying desires that might not even be all that satisfying?

So if you spent 10 minutes chatting with God about how your desires are connected to your sense of good and bad, what would come out of that? Might be worth finding out.

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5 responses

  1. sierrasage

    Wow, I think the Holy Spirit is really speaking this message. I have felt that, too, about not feeling entitled, but being more thankful in every circumstance even if it doesn’t seem to look “good” at first. That’s awesome that you were able to let go and enjoy the coffee time despite the fact that it didn’t go as planned. Beautiful! I also like that song, “You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” Bryan brought that song to my attention years ago 🙂

    January 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    • I think it’s something we all get wrapped up in sometimes. Getting things you want is sort of how our economy is driven these days, I think, and that only makes it harder to work against. Nice to have a Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder now and then, isn’t it?
      I actually thought about that song as I was writing this post. Just didn’t make it in. = )

      January 17, 2013 at 7:47 pm

  2. Stu Anthony

    Cool, Matthew. That’s exactly what my therapist told me on my three-week solitary retreat!

    January 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    • Perhaps time for a reminder for you?
      Even if not, it sure is for me!

      January 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm

  3. Not to minimize your thoughts into a shell of my own insignificance — I love the Rolling Stones.
    And not getting what I want, but instead – what I need – is big part of my everydays.
    I’m really good at feeling okay as I sing along to that thought, but I really suck at living it out. I spend a lot of time “venting my frustration.” I should think my petulance has been a 41 year preoccupation… I’m not without hope… Just not a very good trustor of fortuity not previously anticipated.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

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