by Sarah Hester
Growing up is terrible. For me, I think the hardest part was coming to terms with disappointment.
In October 2014, a little heartbroken and a lot humbled by life, I moved to Texas. Months after transitioning out of student/freelance life into a full-time position in ministry, my hidden expectations came to light and disappointment knocked me out. Mean old life, that Grinch, that Scrooge! I start a new life with new people, and wouldn’t you know it? Everything HERE is out to get me, too!
People let me down, my car fell apart (dangerous AND expensive), my job was overwhelming, and then the big stuff started hitting: deaths of loved ones and family members, then people I had loved and invested in were leaving… walking away from me, or worse, God and His people. What kept it feeling impossible was that I was also feeling totally alone. Nobody showed up to take care of me! Not a fairy godmother, not a handsome bearded prince, not even a sisterhood of traveling pants or whatever!
I was angry. If anything, all this proved was that it really was me against the world. It was all so unfair. Surely I deserved better.
A conversation with a friend one day turned on the first in a series of light bulbs. She told me “I grew up being taught to sweep your side of the street and call it good.” The ensuing hope is, of course, that everyone can keep their own little sidewalk section clean and voila! Clean streets.
This seems okay… healthy, even. There are proper boundaries! People are demonstrating personal responsibility!
Until, you know, life. Storms, disasters, mistakes, and even those flaky people who keep promising they’ll contribute but never actually pick up a broom. Dirty streets.
Hopelessness and bitterness love a dirty street. They take up residence, glancing at your blistered hands, whispering in pity, “It’s not FAIR.”
This is exactly what I felt I experienced these essential years. I had done my part, you know? I worked hard, invested in ministries, cared for people, paid my bills on time, called my grandparents, got my car’s oil changed regularly, started eating veggies, bought a vacuum for my apartment, and STILL I was being hurt, forgotten, run over by life.
Even if you do every little thing perfectly (and, honestly, you won’t)… stuff still falls apart. You’ll end up angry as hell, standing on your sidewalk, squeezing that broom with white knuckles in a doomed, fear-filled frenzy, trying to control your corner.
That is why GRACE, all cliches aside, really is amazing.
In the middle of my blistered, angry victimhood, another light switched on.
Grace… through faith (not my sweeping).
Jesus came to bleed with me. To show me his own broken, human heart. He watched his own street get flooded, cried as his people died, abandoned, and betrayed him.
I needed to hear the Gospel, the good news about Jesus’ humanity and divinity. His strength to take this work and go—not 50/50—but the whole way.
Now, my suffering puts me closer to him. My struggle gives me endurance and character, and a hope that shows God’s inexorable love for me. In this light, I can now celebrate the fact that life IS NOT FAIR. God stacked the cards in my favor!
Grace takes my hurt and gives it back to me as the strength of Christ and reliance on his Spirit. Grace sees my helpless struggle and tears victimhood out of my white-knuckled hands, leaving me bloody and smiling. Grace takes the slacker who couldn’t be moved to pick up his broom, and the hapless soul left overwhelmed by disaster, and the angry control freak clutching her work. Grace takes them in, gives them water, and rest, and cleans the street for them.
It doesn’t seem right to walk across property lines and work for free. It doesn’t feel fair to give and give—often to the same needy people—and still call them “friend”.
It’s impossible to take responsibility for 100%. Grace’s lovely surprise: I don’t have to. The load isn’t mine to carry, clean, brave, or bear.
Jesus has taken it, and with him in me, I can go through His motions while he does the heavy lifting. (My favorite reminders of how he changes what I can do: John 15:1-17, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17.)
One final note, friends: in light of many past disappointments, it seems unwise to “set your hope fully on Grace” as 1 Peter 1:13 tells us. Too many eggs in one basket have never been a good strategy before! Betting everything on Jesus puts me in a vulnerable position.
Here’s what makes this hope different: it’s in a God who specializes in redeeming disappointment. He is the God who parents the orphaned, gives barren women children, and establishes a legacy for the eunuch. He places the lonely in his own family, giving us his own name, his own blood, to keep us secure in the inheritance he has given us.
In the midst of disappointment, disaster, and despair, my hope is in the God who conquers disappointment, the God of Psalm 44:3…
“Not by their own sword (broom) did they win the land (sweep the street), nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.”