When You Feel Like a Disappointment
My husband and I collapsed on the basement couch after making the bedtime rounds. We wanted to spend time together but after work days and diapers and tantrums and laundry and all the normal chaos of life, we felt completely depleted. We opted to watch Harry Potter, a regular entertainment choice when we want to escape without venturing somewhere too terribly intense.
There’s a scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry comes upon The Mirror of Erised. As he looks into the mirror, he sees who he eventually recognizes as his parents who died when he was a baby. He brings his friend Ron to the mirror, hoping Ron can get a glimpse. Ron looks and sees not Harry’s family but himself as head boy and Quidditch captain. Harry later finds his way to the mirror yet again, only to run into Professor Dumbledore who explains that the mirror shows the “deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”
I grabbed the remote, hit pause, and turned toward my husband. “What would the mirror show you?” I asked. (My attempt to escape to a faraway land without thinking deeply didn’t pan out the way I anticipated.)
He sighed and probably fought the temptation to roll his eyes. The question hung in the air, and we left it there as we hit play. But the question haunted me for days. What would I see in the mirror?
I knew what my answer would be, and I felt silly and almost ashamed to admit it. I think I’d see a childlike version of myself crawling up in the lap of Jesus. He’d say to me, “Well done,” and I’d sit with him, soaking in the comfort of his presence.
I’m not trying to offer some super spiritual answer to my Harry Potter question. My own answer surprised me. Despite the image I desired, the divide between that desire and how I believed the scene would actually play out seemed too great a chasm to bridge. What I’d been taught throughout my life in the Church and what I felt in my gut couldn’t have been more different.
The scene I desired never finished in my mind. Another scene interrupted it, the one I actually believed would happen. While in the world of Hogwarts the mirror showed one’s deepest desire, it conjured up a picture of my greatest fear.
I imagined myself coming to Jesus. I’d walk into his presence, but I wouldn’t crawl into his lap. I’d stand there while he looks at me. Then his eyes turn to the ground. He shakes his head in disappointment…and walks away. I don’t know why this image came into my head, but it felt so real, so indicative of how I viewed myself and Jesus. I longed for him to say, “Well done,” but I believed instead I’d be a disappointment not even worthy of an explanation. He’d only hang his head and turn his back.
I’ve been around the Church and studied enough of the Bible to come up with a theologically correct response to this imaginary interaction between Jesus and me. But something still clung to me like a parasite. Even when I could rationalize it away, I lived with lies embedded deep in my soul.
In Luke 7, a prostitute, a “woman of the city,” came to Jesus during a dinner party thrown by a Pharisee. Luke writes, “And standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” Her scandalous act left the party’s host, Simon, questioning Jesus. “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is...” (Luke 7:39).
Yet Jesus didn’t call her a disappointment. He didn’t shun her or scowl in her direction, as others around the table did. He gave Simon a theology lesson and then forgave her, commended her for her faith, and said, “Go in peace.”
Go in peace. Not words that would come from a Jesus shaking his head at a woman who didn’t live up to his expectations, a woman known to everyone there as a sinner. No one at the table lived up to God’s expectations, including the so-called righteous Pharisees. They thought they could stand before God on their own two feet. Jesus challenged them and welcomed the woman who weeps at his feet, knowing full well the depths of her failure. She walked away from Jesus forgiven and changed. The God of the universe looked at her, saw the faith she offered, and welcomed it without any hint of disdain.
Friend, you are not a disappointment. I don’t say that because we’ve done enough or we’re good enough, as surface level motivation or shallow encouragement. If it was up to us and our ability to be “enough,” we’d be far more than a disappointment. But that's how good God is. The lies the evil one tells us—that we’re failures, that we’re never enough, that God hangs his head when he sees us—those are lies because they fail to take into account the sufficiency of Christ. We’re enough because he is. Our performance does not change our position before God, and the work of salvation does not rest on our shoulders. Salvation was accomplished by the one whose shoulders carried a cross. It is finished.
Jesus sees us in light of that truth. We’re sinners forgiven, broken people restored. We don’t come to him with our perfection, but our tears. We don’t have to wait until we’re put together, because it is exactly through him that we’re transformed and remade.
We can go in peace. Our insecurity or need to be enough may war with our souls. But the gospel reminds us that Jesus will not reject those who come to him (John 6:37). We can crawl into his lap, weep at his feet, or stand before his throne knowing we’re not a disappointment. We’re forgiven, loved children of God.
Image by Taylor Smith via Unsplash.