I don’t remember how, it just came to me. I was running when I had the thought that a three-part series on—spoiler alert—EXPECTATIONS might be an interesting topic for the next few podcasts of “Can I Have a Word With You?” We could cover expectations we have of ourselves, others and God. I suggested it to my co-host Bruce. He liked the idea as well and we scheduled it for the following Thursday.
The Wednesday before, I spent the afternoon reading everything I had ever written about the subject from my repertoire of blogs. Hours of reviewing ways I struggled with and found solution for managing my expectations made me realize this is no small issue in my life. I won’t go into great detail here because you can listen to my podcast the next 3 Tuesdays to unpack each nuance more fully.
However-I have to tell you about how it was confirmed to me that I had heard correctly in my spirit when this topic came into my mind. I don’t pretend that the universe revolves around my whimsical thoughts and plans, but I also know that God has a track record of confirming my ideas and endeavors (or just plain schooling me!) by giving me the types of signs I am about to share with you.
After I spent all afternoon reading about expectations, it occurred to me that I should look up the topic in some of the books I read pretty much daily. Each has an index in the back listing all the pages that cover any number of topics. I knew there would be a long list on this particular one. I ran out of time before I went to a meeting that I attend weekly to help me maintain and stretch my spiritual and mental fitness.
This week was what we call a “topic” meeting. I don’t know what I expected, but I know what I didn’t expect and that was a meeting, selected from hundreds of potential topics, on expectations. I just about fell out of my chair.
I then got to listen to about 20 people share their wisdom and their battle with their own expectations. Beautiful.
After the meeting I made a point to connect with one particular person about what she shared. I got her permission to piggy-back off of what she said and take it a bit further with you today.
The question she posed: If having unrealistic expectations tends to get us in trouble by setting us up for disappointment or resentment, what do we call such a state of intense/pressing/overwhelming feelings? She suggested we call it “hope”.
Hope. I can do that.
You see, when we expect a person to behave a certain way or an outcome to resolve in a specific manner, we set ourselves up for disappointment and resentment. We hand over our serenity and risk it not working out to our liking and this results in loss of our serenity on multiple levels.
When we do manage to get what we expected from others, ourselves, God, and the world, we rarely celebrate because we believed we were entitled to it.
But Hope—hope sets us up for gratitude. When we hope (hope they will start taking responsibility, hope that we can heal, hope they will get sober, hope that we can love and trust again, hope they will get the job, hope they/we can forgive, hope they will return our affections, etc.) we wait with trust that ultimately God is in control and knows what’s best for everyone involved.
Sometimes our hopes come to pass and often, God exceeds them, giving us far more than we could ask or imagine.
As we talked, we landed on the visual of holding our hopes loosely so God is free to go above and beyond. We concurred that when we squeeze the life out of our hopes, they turn into expectations, leaving us susceptible to the disappointment and resentment that accompanies them.
It’s a huge topic for sure. I encourage you to check out the podcast the next few weeks to help yourself wrap your head around it from a few different angles. Maybe this post is God suggesting to you, like He did to me last week, that you might benefit from unpacking your own relationship with expectations.