Majoring in Life
Learning how to deal with too many expectations.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 28: Greater Expectations
(When your dreams die young)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Celine D'Accord ripped a return down the line, sending her opponent sprawling after the ball in an increasingly vain attempt to stay alive. Break point. One more and Celine had game, set, match.
A quick look at Coach gave her some reassurance. He was all smiles and nods. She tried to smile back but failed miserably. That guy held the power of life and death in his face, it seemed. One frown from him, and her tennis scholarship was history. Instead she'd be busing tables to get through university on the quarters and dimes pitched to her by worn out waitresses. O Lord, no. Please don't let that happen.
Turning to face her opponent, she saw a fleeting grimace of all-or-nothing determination just before the ball was tossed. Taking a step back, Celine prepared for a hard serve.
This will end now.
The serve tapped the center line. Celine stretched, her forehand barely catching the ball, lobbing it high and deep. She was almost certain it would fall long, but it would be close.
Celine rushed the net.
Watching the ball land just inside the baseline, she rocked on the balls of her feet, ready to react to anything, her racket's shadow falling across the net. The hot passing shot sent her flying to her backhand. As the ball skimmed the net, she stabbed the air, desperate for six more inches, legs flailing behind her. The ball caught the rim of her racket, thudding with a dull smack.
Fighting to regain her balance, Celine watched the ball hop lazily over the net, seeing it bounce twice before passing from view. She vaguely heard the umpire call, "Game, set ...." After that, a white wall of pain covered her like a shroud as she wrapped herself around the umpire's chair.
When Celine opened her eyes, her vision was blurred. She could just make out the clock on the mustard-yellow wall of her hospital room. Her racket arm felt heavy, immobile. Blinking back the fog, she fought to recognize the dark figure that hovered nearby. O Lord, no. Please don't let this happen.
It was Coach, gazing at the bent cast before her. He wasn't smiling.
Unclenching the Fist
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
It's completely natural for you to have aspirations for the future. If you didn't, you'd be a boulder. The issue is not about not having plans.
It's all about how you hold them.
If you hold them tight, they could be torn from your hand in the most painful way. That's particularly true if you allow your plans to swell your head with pride (James 4:13-16). God is a humble God. He simply cannot allow pride to rule in the hearts of his children.
Hold your plans toward heaven on an open palm. When your sovereign God sees fit to change them, it won't be nearly as painful. Proverbs 3:5-6 describes an open-palmed approach:
"Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
You've got to believe that God is not a killjoy. Read that again. He wants to fill your heart with more joy than you could imagine. But his way of getting you there often takes a different road than you'd expect:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
An open palm willingly accepts the higher road. Time to unclench the fist.
Too Many Expectations
When moving into new situations, you probably have the tendency to picture in your mind how you expect things to be. We all do. But rarely does your imagination come anywhere close to reality. With everything from wishing for a spacious bathroom in your dorm to determining the color of your future spouse's hair, expectations have a way of creeping into your soul by the hundreds. Ouch. Not only do you narrow your opportunities—what happens if you meet a lovely redhead?—but also you set yourself up for constant disappointment.
This gets really complicated when you start having expectations of people's actions. If you expect Frank to buy lunch because you bought last time, what happens if he forgets? Depending on the intensity of your expectation, you may decide never to have lunch with him again. The mooch. Or what if Caroline doesn't come to the Bible study you prepared so hard for? Will your expectations drive you into coercing her to come the next time? Is that what you want?
Your expectations will be unwanted weights if heaped on people's heads. They'll make you a heavy person to be around.
A less painful, less limiting, less alienating approach is found in Psalm 62:5:
"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him" (KJV).
Rather than harboring a host of foolish expectations, a personal agenda that is way too long, expect Jesus to give you the grace to face life as it comes.
Let him teach you flexibility and patience, filling your life with open acceptance, quiet approachability, and smooth transitions.
That's the life Jesus himself enjoyed. Think of all the people who clamored for his time, his healing touch, or his wisdom. He calmly handled it all as it came, person by person, with no selfish agenda. He never manipulated, never flew into a flap. He was so approachable that children loved to hover around his knees. His only expectation was to please his Father—wherever that took him (John 8:29).
That's the life Jesus wants you to enjoy—a life of simple but great expectations.