I was all set to write about a certain topic this week when another little idea came knocking on my consciousness’ door, politely saying, “Excuse me, but I have something important to say.” I let this new topic in and entertained it. I liked it. I liked it so much that the topic I was going to write about quietly crept into a corner to patiently wait a little longer for its moment in the blog spotlight.
A few times this week, I have heard people say, “I never expected that this would happen,” or, “I never expected things in my life would have gone this way,” or, “If someone told me a few years ago that I would be [here], doing [this], I would have said, ‘Uh-uh—never. I can’t do that. Are you crazy?’”
I started thinking about expectations. Looking back on my life, many things have happened that I never expected would happen. Many things. If ten years ago, someone would have provided me with a file folder, saying, “OK, Christina, here’s a timeline of events for your 20s: Age 20-30. If you have any questions, well, it’s all there, in the file,” I would have scanned through my file, shook my head vehemently, snapped it shut and thrust it back into the hands of whoever handed it to me. I would have said, “Yeah right! Are you serious? No, no, no. Obviously that file was labeled wrong. Get me my file [thumb to chest]. I want my file.”
Alas, that was my file. Those things happened. Here I am, living proof of the truth of that file.
What about you? Where are you, and what are you doing? Has the timeline of your life, in your file, unfolded just as you expected it to? Ten years ago—fifteen, twenty years ago—did you expect to be where you are today? Did you expect the things that have happened in your life to happen just the way they did?
I started wondering why I even bother expecting anything if my expectations (or lack thereof) don't at all govern or determine the future.
I mean, to some extent, we all must have a sense of what we need/want/ought to live for, such as to be there for and support our families and friends, to carry out our passions and use our gifts and to show God’s love to people. We all must have some expectations—some aspirations and goals and dreams that set us in motion.
Unfortunately, however, we might have such a penchant for certain expectations that we would do anything to protect them from changing. Block walls can be built around expectations: walls that prevent spontaneous, new plans from coming to the forefront of our minds; walls that make the concept of “Plan B” seem unwelcome and inferior to “Plan A.” Unfortunately, I think sometimes my personal expectations have even barricaded God from providing me with His wise guidance.
The timing of our expectations can prevent us from enjoying our current situations. People (including me) will say, “As soon as I get a job, I’ll be able to relax. As soon as we’re done having kids, we’ll be able to enjoy our lives. As soon as [whatever] happens, I’ll be happy.” We expect the next stage of our lives to happen before we can be content. That puts us in a perpetual state of limbo, my friends! So I’m learning that instead of living in limbo until my next expectation comes to life, I should be living.
When expectations grow into colossal Great Walls that don’t let anything else in, leaving us feeling disappointed, or like failures because circumstances manage to overtake the walls, there’s a problem. We resist the change in plans, feeling like our expectations are under attack. We feel like the world is against us or like we can’t do anything right. We fight changes in plans, shooting arrows of resistance at our circumstantial attackers.
I also think this can happen the other way around: by not giving ourselves enough credit as to our potential and our capabilities; instead of expecting “more,” “sooner,” or [this specific outcome], sometimes people don’t expect enough. A lot of people will say, “I never expected that I’d be [insert unbelievable-yet-actually true career path or position or what-you-do here]. Never in a million years did I think I would be doing [this].” In this case, the lack of expectation acts as a barrier to our potential, blocking great opportunities because we don’t even notice them.
I’m learning that I should be dismantling both the brick walls of Expectation and the barriers of Lack of Expectation. They should be more like permeable chain-link fences that can be easily removed, readjusted or hopped over if necessary.
After all, how are we supposed to know what’s best for us anyway? Who are we to think that we will never be good enough for a certain future? We with our finite minds can only form expectations based on our past, our present and other people’s examples. God has expectations for us, knowing everything, especially knowing how important and valuable each person is to Him.
My parents have a simple framed Dutch tile that reads:
(Translation: “For the concert of life, no one gets a program.”)
Or, “The files of your life are confidential and not even you have access to them.”
Our lives are a concert. We don’t know what to expect or when to expect crescendos and decrescendos, fast parts and slow, happiness and sadness, life and death. It’s all in there, but it’s woven together beautifully by Someone Who knows just how to work everything out so that once the last notes have finished resonating through the hall, you can take a deep breath and say, “Wow. That was absolutely amazing. I never expected it to be this way, but it's so...wonderful.”
Don’t let your expectations get in the way of what God has in store for you; just let your expectation be that what God has in store for you is going to be wonderful.