Not So Great Expectations
If you are a people pleaser (like me) you think about expectations all of the time. Mostly because you want to meet and maybe exceed each of the expectations people put on you – no small task. For us director-types, camper, church, donor, board and staff expectations are all out there waiting to be met and, frankly, even the thought of them is exhausting! Because right below the surface is our fear of not meeting those expectations and facing the disappointment of our failure.
Whatever arena of life or profession you find yourself you can be sure that expectations will line up like solicitors with their hand out waiting to be satisfied. Each will leave you with a choice. Do I make meeting that my objective? Do I spend my time finding success there? Do I give each a portion of my energy and emotion or do I pick and choose? Hmmm, food for thought.
On the other side of the “expectation coin” are those that we create for ourselves. They tend to be how we paint the future. They aren’t just pipe dreams but reasoned out pictures of how we think something should turn out. And, of course, the older and wiser and more experienced we get, the surer we are of the outcome. Good marketing will produce growth. Good preparation will accomplish goals. Good instruction will reap appropriate behavior. And, it goes without saying, as we grow in spiritual maturity our projections of what God is going to do or how he is going to respond is clearer. [Ignore the laughter you hear right now in the back of your head. Those are angels and sometimes they can’t help themselves]. Maybe this is a good time to be reminded of Elijah.
When I read his story in 1 Kings 18 and 19 I find myself wondering what Elijah’s expectation was when he came down from the mountain of all mountain top experiences. I’m sure it was a doozy. After all, the best outcome ever was achieved over Baal worship there. The good guy won, the bad guys lost and there was fire from heaven to boot. So in the fervor of the moment as Elijah raced down the mountain ahead of Ahab’s chariot what was going on in his head? Did he expect a national revival? A Godly king to ascend to the throne? A seat at the table for prophets? All of the above?
But as Elijah waited for God, with his personal expectations in tow, all he heard was crickets. Then came a death sentence handed down by a vengeful Queen. Immediately Elijah knew something had gone horribly wrong - and so he ran, not to God but to the desert to die. Hold on a second, we are talking about Elijah here! He was arguably the greatest prophet of all time. What hope is there for us?
Having expectations is not the problem. It is failing to realize that they are human expectations and that means they are built on our perception of how things should be or should turn out. And if we build our hope on those expectations or put our faith in them, well, it’s a bad idea all around. When Elijah’s expectations crumbled into dust, one at a time, he felt he had nothing, was nothing and could do nothing. And at that time God had only one question for him (19:9), “What are you doing here?”
When we stand in the ruble of our own not-so-great expectations we not only need to hear that question but know the answer to it. Why would we want our greatest joys and our greatest satisfaction and sense of fulfillment to be built on the shoulders of our own limited expectations when we can have what God has to offer? And when we face our inability to meet all the expectations from others shouldn’t we realize they are not necessarily ours to meet either? Maybe Stuart Briscoe explains what it is we don’t know, the best, when he says:
It isn’t simply that God is too big to be contained in one man’s intellect, even though he is. But the way God does things is so different from the way we think he should do things, that when we begin to grasp the fringes of his workings we ought not think that we understand the wonder of it all.