We usually use the word “disillusioned” to mean a negative thing. Some definitions from Apple Inc’s dictionary will help here:
disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.
But interestingly, we understand that an “illusion” is a false thing:
• a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses.
• a deceptive appearance or impression.
• a false idea or belief.
And the prefix “dis” reverses, or makes negative, the word that it is placed before:
1 expressing negation: dislike, disquiet.
2 denoting reversal or absence of an action or state: dishonor, disintegrate.
But I don’t want to believe or place my hope in things that are false – in illusions! Even if it means I have to move through the pain of disappointment, surely I would want to have the falseness of my illusions revealed. Now that I understand this (and as strange as it might sound) I can say with certainty that I want to be become more disillusioned!
It seems to me that a better meaning for disillusionment is to be enlightened, set straight, to have my eyes opened to truth rather than my false “truth”. To be disillusioned is actually a good thing! Yes, I want to have my illusions shattered. This is my hope. This is my prayer. But I recognize that it will be a painful process. To discover that I’ve believed lies isn’t going to be easy. But if more truth and reality is the result, I must go there.
This is an important presupposition as I grapple with today’s reading from Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost For His Highest”. He explains, “Disillusionment means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments in life; it means being free from these deceptions.”
(Read the daily devotion here if you like): http://utmost.org/the-teaching-of-disillusionment/
I feel myself becoming more and more disillusioned with myself, my work, my relationships, the world around me and even Christianity. This is wonderful and necessary! None of these things are good and pure. None can fully satisfy. Where humans and “the things of this earth” are involved, there is illusion.
I am holding on to illusions if I expect the life in me and around me to satisfy. My work cannot satisfy. My wife and family cannot satisfy. Entertainment, comfort, safety, popularity, fame, money, possessions, food and sports cannot satisfy. The experience of being a Christian cannot satisfy. There is only One who can truly satisfy. Any other “satisfaction” is illusion.
As Chambers deftly reminds me, “There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I should not be surprised when institutions, things, people and even I disappoint me – let me down, are unable to satisfy me. Of course! How could they do anything else? Sure, I still find myself surprised, disappointed and even hurt. But it’s getting less. Less expectation. Less obligation. Less pressure to measure up. I am becoming free to engage with people and things in more reality and less illusion.
Oswald again. “Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions.”
Please let me be clear on this: When I say I am becoming more and more disillusioned with Christianity, I mean with the religious institution, the Christian dogma, anything of the religious movement that is human and not Jesus. As the illusions are stripped away, I find myself more and more passionate to follow Jesus sincerely – the real Jesus who rose from the dead and is alive today. More than an intellectual alignment with His teachings, avoiding certain behaviors and doing others, I really want to follow Him. I want to be an active, integrated part of the Church – the body of Christ Jesus – and to serve however I can. I believe that to love God is to love His Church – His body – and to take my place within. (Ephesians 5)
I see many people become disillusioned with Christianity and then step away from the Church and Christ. I see many Christians working hard to try to stop people becoming disillusioned with the Christian religion. To me, both these things are sad tragedies. I say let’s allow the disillusionment, expect disappointment in the things of this world and trust in Jesus – first and foremost submitting to Him to reveal the bitterness in our own hearts.
While encouraging this Godly disillusionment, Oswald Chambers also shares a warning. “However, though no longer deceived, our experience of disillusionment may actually leave us cynical and overly critical in our judgment of others.”
So the challenge is not to avoid disillusionment but, instead, to avoid becoming critical, judgmental and cynical as I become disillusioned. But as disillusionment happens, how do I avoid turning my inevitable disappointment into judgmental cynicism and criticism? This is my biggest struggle and a struggle in which I often fail. But I have found that the antidote is to attune my ear to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and to obey. And I find that the constant reminder from Him is that any “sin” I might identify in anyone else – tempting me to my own bitter, human judgement – also exists in me. Apart from Christ, I am a wretched, spiritually bankrupt human without hope. Apart from Christ – His grace and mercy – I am prone to overlook my own wretchedness and only notice the wretchedness of others.
“If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.” Oswald Chambers
But if I place my trust only in Jesus the Christ – who asks me to first weigh the wretchedness is in my own heart and to trust in His grace to save and forgive – I will not despair of anyone. This is only possible as we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). No-one and nothing else.