‘I think I’ll write a book about this.’
I said this over breakfast with a friend, talking about expectations, and more specifically unmet expectations and how we handle them.
You don’t have to look very far to find unmet expectations. I hear it all the time on the radio, written in news reports, and articles online as well as just talking to people. So many saying, ‘He/She/This let us down.’ ‘This isn’t what we expected.’ Whether it is about how a government is treating the people of their country, right down to our most personal relationships.
I haven’t written the book yet, probably other people have.
Often we don’t realise we bring our expectations into every situation and every relationship in our lives – parents, family, friendships, work, marriage, children, or ourselves; even expectations of God and the church. These expectations are shaped by our experience as well as our own ideas of how things should be. When we’re let down or disappointed by something or someone often we don’t always recognize the weight of expectation we’ve placed on the person or the situation in the first place. It could be the wrong one.
I see this in myself.
While I shopped in a store, a month or so ago, I picked up a deal on some cleaning cloths. I think it was buy 2 for $6 or $4 each, so I picked up the two. When I got to the cash the offer didn’t come up on the self-checkout so I called an assistant over, was sent to Customer Service and ended up getting the second one for free. Result. While I walked out of the store God spoke to me and said, ‘You believe me for these little provisions, but I am going to provide the bigger things. See what I can do.’ Later on that day, an email arrived from PayPal and out of the blue an old friend had sent us some money. It was just what we needed for the week. Amazing!
I expected the trajectory to continue (note the ‘e’ word). I thought this was a pivot point and things were on the up for us. I went so far as to say as much at the front of church on Sunday morning when people were going forward to give thanks for what God had done in their lives. ‘God is going to do more,’ I think I said.
Two hours after those words, we were on our way to have lunch with some friends and do some filming for Kids Club, when a deer hit our car. Instant death for the deer. Thankfully none of us in the car were hurt. Our car was. We drove our very broken vehicle home, and since there was nothing the insurance company could do until Tuesday (it was a holiday weekend), we went back out in Tim’s truck and determinedly carried on with our plans.
The next day was a ‘Family Day’ holiday and we went out to do some more filming at a local provincial park and to meet up with our church family for some sledding fun. The sledding hill was packed, as it seemed almost everyone from town seemed to be in the park. This isn’t exactly what you want to see when you’re in costume – Tim as an alien, while our friend Peter and I were dressed in a version of Hans Solo and Rey from Star Wars (known as Captain Cosmic and Galactic Rey to our Kids Clubbers). We got some curious glances, while other people studiously ignored the weirdness.
Once our filming was done, we changed out of our costumes (I was freezing at this point) to do some more sliding down the big hill. I’d already flipped over while we were filming (never sled wearing a cape). When I finally decided to go down the big slope I fell off sideways only a metre or so down the hill. It hurt, but I didn’t want to seem pathetic and head back so I sat back on the sled and carried on. It turned out to be a bad idea as I spun round and crashed with someone as I got to the bottom of the hill. It really hurt me. The young girl I smashed into and over was fine. I walked back up feeling defeated. I sat on the sled at the top for the rest of the time watching everyone else have fun. I felt exhausted. ‘What on earth is going on?’ The thought going through my head.
Our car was written off. We said a sad goodbye to the car that had climbed Mount Washington, to a car we thought we’d have for quite a few years to come. I had bruised ribs. In comparison to some things our friends are going through we had nothing to complain about. A big headache in dealing with insurance companies and finding another car, another loan, and some pain for a few weeks, that’s all. Enough to unsettle me though.
I did find myself lost for words. Where was the trajectory of God’s provision in this? It looks like it plummeted. Where was the more? It looks like less. I know we’re in a battle, but it seems like we’re getting hammered. I felt like the butt of a bad joke.
Yet as I reflected I began to see my expectations are a little off. God doesn’t do things the way we expect. God doesn’t promise us life without trials, instead in the Bible in the letter of James tells us to, ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,’ (James 1:2 ESV). Not ‘if’, but ‘when’. Life is full of trials and challenges, accidents and pain. James continues, ‘for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.’ (James 1:3)
In the last few weeks I felt tested. I still feel tested. My struggle is this: knowing God is good and he loves us why did this all happen? Why do things go from bad to worse sometimes? It’s likely I will never be able to answer that one fully this side of heaven. Maybe in time and with patience it will become clear.
I’ve begun to see our situation from a different way round though. God gave me a promise before the deer jumped out on us, a few days before, and it felt like a deposit. A promise saying, ‘I am with you’. He knew what was going to happen. He protected us from harm – things could have been so much worse. He knew, and He gave us something to hold on to in the stress and the upset and the loss. He is kind and He is faithful. I choose to trust His ways are better, that He works all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). I know He is there in the trial.
The example of the last few weeks is just one of many in my life where my expectations haven’t been met. These things happen to all of us in various ways. I’m learning not to focus so much on those unmet expectations, learning to deal with disappointment and take it all to God. To expect God to meet me in those situations. He provides in His time and in His ways, and in ways we don’t expect. He’s done it before, He will do it again.
I’m going to take God at His word. He is going to do more – in His way, not mine. That is my great expectation and my hope.