Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Managing Expectations

Our sermon at church last week started by laying out the notion that our expectations shape how we see the world--for good or not so good.  I'll be the first to admit that my misguided expectations have been the source of a great deal of unhappiness in my life.  Mother's Day is a perfect example.  I am a horrible person on Mother's Day--there I said it.  In the past I've let every cliche, worldly, Hallmark expectation ruin many good Sundays over the years.  If Mother's Day is anywhere on heaven's radar, I'm certain Eric is breathing a sigh of relief that he doesn't have to deal with me tomorrow.  I would try to tell myself not to expect too much--maybe a simple breakfast in bed with dry toast and sloshed over orange juice.  Then the day would begin and someone would ask me to find their socks or do something motherly and my grumbling would begin...  My dear husband would get out of bed give me a sleepy kiss and mumble "Happy Mother's Day".   Resentfully I would think, "Where are the flowers, the thoughtful card about all the hard work I do around here..."  Then there was the dreaded year that my children made me a giant-sized card at Sunday School where they were to list the things that their mom was good at.  My children have a sense of humor (although I evidently do not on Mother's Day) and listed things like this:  Talking to her sister, Going out with her friends, Going shopping, Going to movie club, Doing her nails...  I read the card, felt completely unappreciated and then threw a monster-sized temper tantrum like some kind of toddler and finally--to preserve my own dignity--Eric sent me to my bedroom for a time out.  If my kids need therapy some day it might stem back to that Sunday.

About expectations.  I still have them.  I expected to have my husband around for a few more years.  I expected to be healthy.  I expected to have one more Father's Day with my dad.  Mostly, I expected that if I lived a good Christian life and checked all those boxes that God would bless me with easy days and sleep-filled nights.  My expectations were wrong.  It's hard for God to grow people when all of their expectations match up with the reality of their life.  God can't do much with us when we're comfortable.  Our roots grow deeper when an unexpected storm causes us to sway in the wind--when our branches snap and we have to grow a new one.  If someone outlined my life 6 months ago, I would have expected it to ruin me, leave me rocking in a corner.  Many of you have expressed to me that you couldn't endure what my life is like right now--you have an expectation that it would destroy you.  Your expectation is wrong.  You would survive by the grace that God provides for such a time as this.  He doesn't mince words on his one, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.  So we can wholeheartedly expect that He will be there when the hard times come and we can also expect that those will most definitely come.  Over the last months I have been grown and have received so many blessings through a life path that I would have never expected to have to walk.

There are moments when God gently or gigantically realigns our expectations.  Just prior to one of Eric's many heart procedures, I remember having the hope, the expectation, that this procedure would resolve his rhythm problems.  I expressed this to his doctor.  He looked at me with kind and sympathetic eyes and said, "I know you want this fix to keep his heart from going out of rhythm, but the reality is that when I look at the condition of his heart, I think it's a miracle that it ever stays in rhythm at all."  Everything in my head had to adjust.  I was expecting a miracle, only to find out that I was already living in the reality of that miracle.  It was a sobering, but sweet reminder that maybe we're smack dab in the middle of something good, but we're missing it because we expect something better or different.

What are you expecting out of your life?  Health, happiness, success?  Are you expecting that God will bring you a great husband, successful children?    Are you expecting that your spouse will love you perfectly or that you will outlive your children?  Are you expecting another day to put things right in your life? Are you expecting things of this earth to fill a heaven-shaped void?   Expectations are not all bad, but they often become the guiding compass of our life and when they disappoint us we feel like either we've failed or possibly God has failed us.  What I've learned to expect is that God is in my tonights and my tomorrows. He is there to catch my tears of disappointment and He is there orchestrating my surprise successes.  He has a plan that I may not understand or appreciate with my earthly senses.  I expect that I might not be the main character of the story and that I might not completely understand the plot line while on this earth.  I expect that I will need Him to get through each minute of each day.  I expect that He is in control and I expect that His love is greater than any of my expectations.