I am the blessed mother of five incredible sons. That is five pregnancies, five marked times when expectations ran high and five deliveries into reality. Knowing and unknowingly, each time I was expecting with expectation! You would think this in itself would be enough to free me from further bowing to expectations, but it hasn’t.
I carry many spoken and unspoken, known and unknown expectations. They can be the source of conflict in relationships or problems in the workplace. They rest unseen like a burr under the saddle; all is fine until pressure is applied!
To expect is to look forward to something with eagerness or to anticipate the occurrence or the coming of something or someone. Expecting can be positive!
Not only did we anticipate the births of our own children, my husband and I looked ahead to when they would be married. We with eagerness awaited the arrival of each grandchild. Over the years, our family of two has expanded to twenty-three!
When my husband and I were married, we fully expected some day to have a family. We had no expectation of how large that family would become, or how blessed our lives would be through them.
Expecting can also be negative!
“He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.”
The guilt of sin and failure, accompanied by conviction is not unfamiliar territory for me! I know when justice should be administered, yet mercy and grace are portioned out. I fully expect to receive the penalty that already has been applied.
The cross was the greatest act of justice ever conceived. Christ bore the full weight of the penalty of sin in His death. What I deserved, Christ took! Though I expect punishment, grace is offered. It is a grace without strings attached.
Expectation, on the other hand, is quite different. It is the eagerness of something “self-determined” happening in the future coupled with
assumption and even presumption,
conjecture or prediction.
It is a strong belief that something should happen in a specific way! Today is the day of unparalleled, unrealistic expectations. Media continually flashes images of “super people” in front of us. You know what I mean: the new car, perfect home, six figure income, kids who always behave, the ladder of success easily climbed, never weary, always on the up-and-up…
The weight of unrealistic expectations, like heavy stones, breaks emotional bones, fractures families, and incubates discouragement.
“The hopes of the godly result in happiness,
but the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.”
Expectations carry a selfish slant filled with desires of self-fulfillment even when we think they don’t!
Because God is inerrantly good, everything He is and does is good. What He has for us is good!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Hope and desire are the fuel of living passionately! When rightly placed they release God intention to the world around us. It is God who gives us the ability to dream, and the courage to dream again when dreams seem lost.
“Surely there is a future,
And your hope will not be cut off.”
Expect without Expectation
Here is where I make the leap! In knowing the goodness and love of God, I form presumptions of what I think the future should be. Rather than placing my trust in Him, with childlike simplicity, I begin to weave my own ending into the story line of not only my life, but of those around me.
My prime victims are those closest to me. It is most unloving, however, to expect the best for them, while tightly gripping the confining strings of expectation around their lives.
Then there is the paralyzing opposite! Because of unfulfilled, self-directed expectations, I find a reluctance within me to expect again, a hesitancy to hope, and a fear of dreaming for the impossible.
Expecting without expectation requires living with
arms flung purposefully open,
a heart tenderized and welcoming to all,
a mind flexible to God encounters and initiatives,
and a no-holds-barred
“Yes” to God!
To fully expect, requires trust!
What allows me to release expectation is, undoubtedly, a confident trust in God who is completely trustworthy.
“For God alone, O my soul,
wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”
It is right and good to expect God to be all He said He would be. I can expect with absolute assurance that He will fulfill all He has promised. It is on this foundation that faith rests.
“Faith is the confidence that
what we hope for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
Living expecting in His goodness, without expectations of predictable outcomes, is perhaps like walking a tight-rope blindfolded. Unknowing how far I have come or how far is left to go, without solid ground beneath my feet or structure to hold to, I hesitantly move forward.
God gives the assurance to let go of all expectations, while simultaneously whispering an invitation to hope. He opens the window releasing failure, disappointment and loss while allowing the breath of His Presence to enter with freshness.
When His word touches my heart, do I receive it, holding it gently, and examining it purposefully, before surrendering it wilfully at His feet? In this is the image of expecting without expectation. It is
receiving without clinging,
appreciating with owning,
possessing without controlling,
loving without manipulating,
“We Had Hoped”
“Our lives should be lived with expectancy.
Not necessarily with expectation,
because expectation tends to dictate terms…
Expectancy is the belief that God will do something.
Expectation insists He do it in just this way…”
– Mark Buchanan
(“Your God is Too Safe” – Pg 149)
Two perplexed disciples walked the road to Emmaus when a “Stranger” joined their conversation:
“..we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”
Their expectation of Christ didn’t include betrayal, crucifixion, or the inexplicable empty tomb! The Source of all hope walked beside them. They neither recognized nor heard – blind and deaf by expectation! Until He broke the bread…
How oft I miss seeing The One beside me, because of expectation for a different way.