“Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.” (Patricia McCormick, Cut)
“I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.” (Bill Watterson)
A few weeks ago, my family took a long-awaited trip to the zoo. My little girl has been asking to go since last winter, and we promised her months ago that we would go in the fall. We built it up big time, describing to her the animals she would see and how amazing it would be to feed the giraffes and how much she would love the enormous tortoises. On and on we went, counting down days until the day marked on the calendar with a big elephant sticker. Finally the day arrived. We loaded up the car with snacks and an abundance of expectations for a great day, and off we went.
We arrived…and something odd happened. As we took turns stopping in the restroom before heading off to see the brown bears eat their breakfast, we stopped at the information booth to pick up a map of the zoo. Jennifer was ecstatic.
We could never have anticipated that she would be more interested in looking at the map than she would be in actually seeing the animals. I wish I could say that were an exaggeration, but alas:
All. day. long. She did feed the giraffes, and enjoyed that quite a bit. We had to constantly remind her to put the map down, though, and watch where she was going. She even skinned up her knees when she tripped on a crack in the sidewalk because she was reading the map instead of watching where she walked.
We joked that we could have walked into the front gate of the zoo, picked up the free map, and left and she would have been perfectly content. Gone were our idyllic visions of her being enthralled with the elephants…prying her away from the penguin exhibit…promising her that we could go back and see the monkeys one more time before we left. No, our little girl was more interested in the map than she was the actual reason for the zoo, and there was nothing we could do or say to change that.
I don’t think I have to say that we were more than a little disappointed. Later that night, Scott and I talked about what had happened. We were both flustered and tired and completely bewildered, and as we shared our thoughts about why things had gone the way they had, we told ourselves over and over: “Oh, well. Mooooooooving on. Just move on.”
Our buildup and expectations had been met with an atomic bomb of disappointment. It was nothing at all like we had expected it to be. We had a real sense of grief and loss as we buried our hopes for the day and became acquainted with the reality of our memories.
As I tell that story, I’m sure there are those reading who have no pity for my petty disappointment. There are those reading…those around us…who are dealing with the way disappointment has taken over their expectations for their marriage. There are those with crushed expectations for their children. There are those who have only disappointment where they once believed they would have success. Disappointment does not discriminate, and the more fervent our expectations, the more crushing the blow that disappointment can deliver.
So what do we do when instead of the beautiful things we expect, life delivers bitter disappointment and heartache? As followers of Christ in a broken world, there has to be a balance to be found. We too often find ourselves in limbo between despairing, depressing, devastating disappointment and unconditional acceptance of circumstances. There has to be something for us to do in the midst of dashed hopes and crushed dreams.
We become disappointed, I think, when we place our expectations on temporal things: people, things, circumstances, situations. We want people or things to be what we want them to be – nothing less – and when they don’t measure up, we feel the loss. When we place our hopes for the future on things of the world, our satisfaction in what is to come is only as stable as our circumstances. When we place our hopes in Christ, though….
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)
We cannot expect the world from people or situations because people and situations were never designed for that. Circumstances will come and go, in and out, and what will be, will be. God, though….that eternal rock of hope that never wavers…..He can be trusted to come through every. single. time.
It may not look like what we expected…but it will be good. It may take longer than we hoped…but it will be good. It may hurt for a time…but it will eventually be good. It will be good.
Our hopes for tomorrow….our strength for today…our disappointments from yesterday. All of them can rest firmly on Him. He can take it. He is strong and faithful and constant enough. Keep your focus there, and it will all balance out.
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)