Dangerous Disappointment

Dear Sibling Rivals:

What do we do when our sacrifice is disregarded? When the work of our hands, the sweat of our brow, our calculation, labor and execution are ignored, how do we respond? The question becomes even more intense when we see others respected, regarded and rewarded for their work. To us the adulation, the mobility, the affirmation received by others seems unwarranted. That their effort leads to still waters and green pastures of success angers us, while we remain in the valley of the shadows, stumbling along an ever more treacherous path.

The human response, the one easily at hand, is to flip the script, rewriting our circumstance as a competition rather than a challenge. We reject accountability for our vineyard; no longer asking how to create fruitfulness from the arid soil, we channel the energy of disappointment into competitive rage, perceiving the other more successful laborers to be privileged cheaters. Their success becomes proof of their immorality, and our indignation becomes “righteous”. What began as comparison escalates to combat.

That’s the ancient story of Cain and Abel, the farmer and the rancher. Both sacrificing to the same God, Abel’s offering garners attention, Cain’s no second glance.

Cain’s disappointment, however, receives divine regard. God inquires regarding Cain’s anger, his crestfallen face. While Abel’s sacrifice received honorable mention, he had no appointment with the Holy One. Cain’s disappointment, on the other hand, receives God’s full attention, more notice than did Abel’s sacrifice. God encourages Cain to return to his work. If Cain does well, God guarantees acceptance, not of the sacrifice, but of Cain.

We become Cain when we fail to recognize God’s presence in our disappointment. Consolation feels patronizing. We would rather eliminate the competition than acknowledge that it was never a contest.

Cain has ceased to care about his own work. He cannot see the problem as his performance, nor is it God’s regard. For Cain the problem is Abel – a problem Cain determines to resolve.

Twisted by anger, Cain determines it must be about the blood; Abel did, after all, sacrifice flesh. So, Cain returns to his field, not to follow God’s advice regarding labor and dignity, but to offer the blood-sacrifice of his brother on the altar of insatiable disappointment.

Watching the dangers of disappointment, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor