We bank on them. Treat them like they're a done deal – name it, claim it, believe it, God said it, that settles it; that kind of thing.
Expectations are beliefs about what might happen. The operative word being ‘might.’
And yes, they are powerful and have a particular function in our lives. We should have expectations around things and people and life and God. But…
Life teems with unmet expectations and the unexpected.
Powerful, two minute reads that have helped change the script in thousands of people's lives.
I didn’t expect to get sick.
I didn’t expect that person to leave.
I didn’t expect to lose.
I didn’t expect to be touched by that person's story.
I didn’t expect to agree with them.
I didn’t expect that I would turn out like this.
I expected things would be better.
I expected them not to say a word.
I expected my friend/love/parent/child/sibling to get well.
I expected to get the job.
You get it.
The problem with expectations is that they are only expectations.
So, we let go. We have expectations, but we hold them loosely. We hold ‘knowing’ in one hand, and ‘not knowing’ in the other. When people let us down, when life lets us down, when it seems God lets us down, and we let ourselves down, we look beyond the unmet expectation with faith knowing that even in this space, there is more to learn, there is holy work to be done.
Faith hasn’t let you down, you just haven’t followed it beyond your expectations yet…
Jesus showed us how to sit with pain. How to get down in the dirt. How to take ourselves away and be still and contemplative. How to enter into sorrow and suffering. The one person who could have controlled circumstances and situations, who could have fulfilled everyone's expectations, gave up his control and allowed himself to be killed.
He let go.
He entered into our pain – all of it. The unmet expectations, the disappointments, the heartache, and trauma: he doesn’t expect that we won’t go through things. Rather, he meets us in our disappointment and makes it holy.
Just because there are problems with expectations, doesn’t mean that we should stop expecting good things.
But it does mean that we shouldn’t attach ourselves so fiercely to them. Faith doesn’t hang its hat on expectation. Faith invites us to live through them and beyond them.
In fact, in the middle of pain and disappointment and suffering, it’s faith that whispers: this isn’t permanent.
Ephesians 3:20 is used a little out of context sometimes:
“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.” (MSG.)
We put boundaries on how God will do more than we can imagine.
But here’s the thing: If we can’t imagine it, we can’t even begin to articulately expect it, either. And the last part of the verse? He doesn’t do things beyond our wildest dreams outside of ourselves. He does them within us. With us.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about expectations and the problems they bring into our lives is that it’s in the space of the unpredicted and unmet that we miraculously, somehow, graciously move and live beyond them into something entirely new.
Something altogether unexpected.
Written by Liz Milani