Although Robert would never say this out loud to anyone, including his wife, he had to admit to himself that he struggled with feelings of disappointment concerning his son. When he had heard 20 years ago that his first child was going to be a boy, he was beside himself with joy. He would spend hours going over in his head all the things that he and his son would do together. He had visions of his son being a top athlete, a great student, and a successful worker. He would also hope that maybe his son would follow his father and become a part of their successful family business.
But as things began to play out over the years, Robert would have to let go, one by one, of the things that he thought would be for his son. James wasn’t really a good student, in fact he barely got by. There wasn’t too much interest in playing sports, and the idea of a scholarship to a swanky university just wasn’t in the cards for his James. And his son wasn’t interested in the least in getting into the family business. And, to tell the truth, Robert couldn’t recommend him for a position the way things were going at present.
So, here was James, at 20 years of age, struggling, lost, involved with the wrong crowd, barely holding a job at the restaurant down the street, and struggling with a borderline alcohol problem. Robert’s wife could sense the frustration in her husband when the conversation turned to their son and how they could help him. And although Robert, in general, was a very controlled and disciplined individual, who was successful in pretty much everything he laid his hands on, he would have a hard time not giving in to feeling that, as far as his son was concerned, he had failed as a parent.
Robert’s wife didn’t feel the way Robert felt, it seemed. She was able to take James where he was, and wanted to help him to overcome his difficulties. She didn’t seem to have the expectations that Robert did. She saw the good person that could be “brought forth” beyond the troubled exterior that was her son James. And Robert thought to himself, “Why can’t I approach my son the way that my wife does? Why do I always feel that I’m struggling with disappointment when I look at him? I guess the real problem lies within myself. I have to let go of my plan for my son and allow him to be the person he’s meant to be.”
I tell a story like this influenced by the first reading about Abraham and his son, Isaac. God put Abraham to the test, it says. Abraham came through! He followed his God even though it made no sense to him whatsoever! And although those circumstances are certainly extreme, there are times in our own life where we are put to the test. How does this happen? When we are faced with disappointment in the face of what were our hopes and dreams for ourselves or for our family or even our world, it is a kind of test. When we are faced with the unexpected illness or find that we are no longer able to do the thing we loved to do anymore, when those we love are hurting and it seems that there’s nothing we can do to fix it, it is a kind of test.
When we are faced with a test what do we do? Allow disappointment to rule our days? Or do we try to see something different from our expectations? So many times it ends up being about us and not the other person.
I believe that tests can lead to transformation—-and to a better “us”, a better “me”. Although the kind of Transformation described in the Gospel awaits all of us who persevere in faith, there are transformations that gradually take place every day of our lives if we but open our hearts to Christ and follow his ways instead of our own. Life is not meant to be one disappointment after another, and if it seems to be that way, then maybe the issue is “me” and not the other person. Ask for the grace to trust in the promises of the Lord and be transformed one day at a time. Learn to look at life with Christ’s eyes and not just our own.