Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Expectations

High Expectations by Arthur John Elsley

Tricky things, aren't they? Expectations. On the one hand, we're told to expect great things, especially from God. On the other hand, they can lead to disappointment. Take, for example, these two opposite quotes:

I don't have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments.
~Michael Landon
 High expectations are the key to everything.
~Sam Walton

An obvious split opinion on this topic. =) And I'm not sure where I come down on it, so I figured I'd think my way through it in a post. Because wherever I'll end up on it ten minutes from now, it's a topic on my mind after conference.

On the one hand, I will state definitively that it is good and right and necessary to expect great things from the Lord. Honestly, I don't know that it's even expectation so much as faith. Trust that He will deliver what He has promised. Which isn't usually (sometimes, but not usually) specifics--a nice house or fabulous car or fame--its overarching stuff. He promises that He will be sufficient. He promises that He will sustain us. He promises us that no matter how alone we feel, He is beside us. And because of that, we can expect Him to show up when we come to Him with open arms. We can expect to feel Him move in church. We can expect blessing when we follow Him.

But that doesn't mean the blessing will look like we expect it to, right?

Because conference is on the brain, I'll use that as an example. There have been years when I felt there was no need to go, and years I felt I should. Did I always see results? Um . . . maybe, eventually. But rarely like I thought I would. From my first conference, I did indeed sign with my top pick agent. From my second, I got a lot of manuscript requests--didn't sell to anyone I met there though. At least not that book. ;-) Last year I went and came away with a feeling of "What was the point of that?? I don't regret going, but..."

See, I think when we get a promise from God, a directive that we obey, we form specific expectations. Like if God says, "Go to the conference," we expect to come home with a feeling of euphoria from having made that awesome connection or even to get a "Yes!" from an editor there. (It's happened! I've seen people leave with contracts!) 

But isn't that kind of putting God in a box? Saying, "You promised You'd move, so obviously it must be this way." I know that's what I've done. But it just doesn't work that way.

We have such finite perspectives. We can only see so far ahead. And usually only straight ahead. Our view is colored by our feelings. And while we can't get away from that, from the way we're made, God's asking us to trust Him. Not to give up our expectations . . . but to never give up on our expectations. Does that make sense? To hold tight to them even when we feel disappointed. To hold to Him. To keep knocking, keep beseeching, keep pounding the gates of heaven. And to do that trusting that the promises are still there. That He's leading us toward a shining mountaintop, even when all we see is the shadow of the valley.

And we also have to realize that sometimes we never see the true effect, though often enough people hear of it years later. So, so often God calls us to a specific place to meet one specific need of someone else. We obey a directive expecting a tangible result for ourselves. And so can be baffled when we see nothing. But who's to say we didn't do exactly what He wanted us to do?

We all deal with expectations every single day. Our own, and others' on us. It's the way we're made, and I think it's a good way. We ought to expect. We ought to desire. We ought to stand up, reach out, and strive for our goals. But we also must let go of specifics, we must relinquish the idea that we know what God intends. We don't. We can't.

But we can know, trust, expect that He's got a better view of our lives from up there than we do down here. And that if we just listen, He'll lead us through this maze without running into the dead-ends we tend to ram headlong into. And we can also know that if He leads us into one, it's to meet somebody there. Or, maybe, to get out of the way of something steaming up behind.
Yes, we're going to be disappointed when we have expectations. But we're also going to keep following, wondering where the fruition will come. So expect. Believe. And don't give up.

What are you expecting today? And what should you be?


  1. I really like when you think stuff out on here. I am (annoyingly) optimistic, with amazingly high expectations sometimes - but you are SO right - they are my specific interpretation. Definitely need to watch that.

    And I love your thought about us being somewhere sometimes to meet someone else's needs. A fabulous reminder. Thanks, Roseanna :)

    1. I'm annoyingly optimistic too, Joanne. Which does have that drawback.

      I just heard a fun quote. "Optimism might not solve every problem, but it will at least annoy enough people to be worth the time." LOL

  2. Oh gosh, Roseanna! I just came from GTW "Should you set writing goals?" my initial reaction was " I always do and can never meet them. Maybe my expectations are too high.".
    I tend to have that problem and the conference was a perfect example. I want to go to conference si badly. Ofcourse when I hear it's in Grapevine, 45 mins from my house I freak out. It's perfect. It's meant to be. Right?! Until I realize the only pieces that's working out is that its in Grapevine, none of the other prices are there. I couldve gone but I forced myself to think about it objectively and as I prayed about it felt it wasn't the right thing to do. I'm trying to stay hopeful it'll happen in the future.
    That's the whole thing, i have lots of dreams and expectations and probably some of them too big or unrealistic which results in a lo of hurt on my end. Especially if you (I did for a while) surround myself with the wrong people who say "you have to live this type of life to be worthy" and when you can't your wasting your life.
    I read the book "The List" by Marian Jordan it's theme is unmet expectations and its really struck me. Ive been spending time re-reading it slowly and mulling over it.

    1. I think it's great to have a few crazy-big goals--so long as you put them in the Lord's hands to give or not. =)

  3. Another compelling post cousin! I especially appreciate the little reminder about whose got the best view! ;) Thanks for sharing and making us think too...

  4. Roseanna, This post is exactly there. Your third paragraph from the bottom especially resounded with me. Thanks for all the wisdom in this post.