“Things never discovered or heard of before, things beyond our ability to imagine — these are the many things God has in store for all his lovers.”
Last week we discussed the problem with expectations. Now, I didn’t say that they are bad, just that they bring problems into our lives. Some of our more pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) friends might say that expectation is the root of all heartache (Shakespeare said that, too).
Having expectation is almost a magnet for disappointment because things and people and life rarely turn out the way we expect. The expectation gap is real my friends. But there is always at least two sides to every story, and just as much as expectation can deliver us disappointments, it has gifts for us, too.
Belief is a powerful, directive mechanism. Expectation is a certain belief and hope about what will happen. We can experience this in both negative and positive ways. If you expect someone to be trouble, you’ll most likely only see them in the light of that expectation.
If you expect and believe someone to be good, you’ll see them in the light of that expectation, too. Thus it’s directive power. Which, of course, can be blinding in both instances.
Sometimes our beliefs get in the way of truth.
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
Powerful, two minute reads that have helped change the script in thousands of people's lives.
But then there are all the quotes and studies and books and sermons about how expectations are good and holy and helpful. Like the placebo effect: people who think they are taking an actual medication, but are in fact taking a placebo, still site that they experience remedy and healing as if they were taking an actual drug. Scientists believe this is because of the expectation people place in the act of treating an ailment.
Stephen Covey said: “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) And I agree with one of my favourite literary characters when she said: “Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.” (Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery).
Growing up, I meticulously picked out a wall calendar every new year. I put everything on it – every concert, birthday, meeting, event… Anything I could add to that baby, I added. The thing I loved most? Crossing off the days counting down to all the things and places and people to celebrate. Excited. Expectant.
I have been so expectant of The Divine since I was a little girl. I used to sing “Lord I come with great expectations” at the top of my lungs, my imaginative faith soaring to distant places. “Things never discovered or heard of before, things beyond our ability to imagine— these are the many things God has in store for all his lovers.” (1 Cor 2:9, Isa 64:4). So imagine and believe and expect, I did.
Although I’ve encountered many disappointments and disillusionments along the way, the gifts bestowed have far outweighed them. Gifts like hope and tenacity; learning the art of letting go; learning to trust beyond expectation, whether it be fulfilled or not. Which I think is by far one of the most challenging, ongoing, lessons.
There’s a tension in expectation: how do we hold on to hope while being realistic about our disappointments?
You can’t have one without the other. Otherwise, you end up living in a fantasy land. Like I said earlier, things and people and life rarely turn out the way we expect. Why expect anything of anything or anyone?
I think it all depends on what we expect from our expectations.
Written by Liz Milani