Ages ago when our kids were young, Doug asked me what I wanted for my birthday. With syrupy kindness I said, “oh nothing dear, I have everything I ever wanted.” We both chuckled and the conversation ended.
You probably guessed it. That birthday I got exactly what I had asked for.
An Important Lesson
In Doug’s defense, unable to read my mind, he asked the question more than once and even conspired with the kids. I’m not even sure exactly why I was silent. Was it some sort of a test to assess how well he knew me? Regardless, it has been an important lesson in our marriage. When I expect something of him, I cannot assume he’ll read the tea leaves. Admittedly, my tea leaves, steeped in estrogen and influenced by my rose colored glasses, can be confusing.
I agree with Anne Lamott.
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”
Even still they are unavoidable.
- I expect that my husband will remember our anniversary.
- I expect the oncoming car will yield to my right of way.
- I expect that my family will help with the dishes.
- I expect to wake up tomorrow.
Often our expectations are not spoken aloud, but assumed. And even if reasonable, are not guaranteed. Every single solitary one of us has been tripped up by unmet expectations. The question is… how do we respond? Learning to manage our unmet expectations is an important, even vital, life skill.
Day late, Dollar short
Last week we were exuberant over Becca’s news that she got her dream job. (She’ll be a speech pathologist in the Austin, TX public schools, starting Aug 1). This week she was blindsided by the college friends she had expected to live with. Apparently, they found a perfect house, but… they had to decide immediately and it wasn’t big enough to include Becca. Still living in Pittsburgh and clearly at a disadvantage, Becca was a day late and a dollar short.
While I’m sad for her, I’m also confident that she will land on her feet. My prayers have been focused on how the Lord will use this experience in her life.
Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
It’s one thing to manage the disappointment caused by the unmet expectation of your spouse or some college friends, but what if God is ultimately the object of your disappointment?
The Poster Child
My son Ian is the poster child for unmet expectations. And because the cards he has been dealt seem so unfair, Ian can’t reconcile how a good God could or would have allowed his path. And frankly as his mom, I empathize with his struggle. I’ve wrestled with those questions too.
How do we live with hopeful expectancy, when our life experience seems contrary?
Expectation vs. Expectancy
The way I understand it, there is a vast difference between expectation and expectancy. Expectation is premeditated disappointment while expectancy requires our faith. To hold fast to your expectation is to decide how things must turn out. With clenched fists you pray/demand for what you conclude is the only acceptable outcome.
to embrace expectancy is to appeal to God with open hands. You believe the Lord will hear and trust that He’ll act on your faith-filled prayers. At the same time you give Him room to answer in a way that’s different from the way you expect, knowing “His thoughts are not our thoughts and HIs ways are not our ways.” In other words expectancy invites God to be God in your life. Thy will be done. Do you see the not so subtle difference?
In an age full of disappointments, loss, injustice and heartache how do we prevent all of our unmet expectations from derailing us, from strangling our joy and skewing our perspective?
1. Release expectation.
2. Embrace expectancy.
Hand it Over
It’s time to open our clenched fists and release the yellowed, torn and crinkled picture of how we expected things would look. It’s time to hand it over to the One who knows us best and loves us most, to the One who creates beauty out of ashes.
Isaiah 61:3 …to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
It’s time to trust the One who longs to take our disappointing story and create something beautiful, something beyond our imagination.
Ephesians 3:20 (MSG) 20 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Father God, We praise you for being All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Loving and Ever-Present. We confess that sometimes our limited minds have a hard time grasping Your awesomeness. Thank you that you don’t cower to our narrow expectations. Thank you that You stand ready and eager to accept our crinkled picture. Please help us to loosen our grip, trusting You for a beautiful and redeemed outcome. Amen.