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(042) Escaping Expectation

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people …” – Ephesians 1:18

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” – Matthew 13:13

New perspectives are disruptive. They require us to move and are almost always painful. However, adapting to new perspectives is often necessary as we seek to honestly engage life and continue to dive deeper into our relationship with God.

Swinging around to a new perspective on expectation has started me on an internally tumultuous journey for the last couple of weeks. But expectation is not a new topic for me. I have long wrestled with expectation regarding my relationship with God (036) Expectation vs Expectancy). However, recently I experienced a podcast series by Wild At Heart (Vulnerable Places, Expectation and Resentment, Loving God In Your Pain) that has awakened me to the expectations I hold in the other areas of my life.

I love how God works differently in each heart … for some, we first become aware of expectation in our day-to-day lives and God uses it to open our hearts to the expectations we hold in our relationship with him. For me it’s been the other way around. God made me aware of my expectations of him and is now using that awareness to help me recognize the everyday expectations I hold in my day-to-day relationships.

As I lean in, I remember something John Eldredge said in his book Walking with God, (I am paraphrasing) “It’s not about what God isn’t giving. It’s about what he is.” Turning my expectations, which by their very nature, are self-focused, into expectancy, with its focus on what God is doing and going to do, has been a huge rescue in my relationship with him. So, as I look at and deal with the expectations I have created in my daily life – marriage, work, children, friends, ministry, etc. – I find the same perspective holds true. Live in Expectancy.

I hope you noticed that I used the word “created” in reference to my expectations. As I said earlier expectations are self-focused. Being self-focused they are also self-created. Now, most of the time, we do not consciously create our expectations. But we do create them nevertheless and allow them to float around in our subconscious. The result of our choices and agreements.

For example, my wife always does the dishes. So, the subtle, unconscious agreement I make over time is that she will always do the dishes and that agreement fuels the expectation that she will always do the dishes. Now, I would never, if asked, say that my wife should always do the dishes and, in fact, I do occasionally do the dishes. Usually on my own and when it is convenient for me. But, what about when it is not convenient for me?

That subtle agreement and expectation that my wife will always do the dishes can then be turned into discord when it is inconvenient for me and she doesn’t do them. In my heart I notice, “She didn’t do the dishes.” The evil one is right there to throw gas on that spark with the thought, “Wow, that’s pretty inconsiderate.” If I bite on that by agreeing with it then we are off to the races and it can quickly become an internal conversation about whether she loves me or not. Would I acknowledge this to be true in the light of day? No. Would it adversely affect our relationship? Absolutely. Would I be conscious of this adverse affect? Probably not. But it would become one of the unspoken, unnoticed, unarticulated grievances that pops up as background in a future argument or subtly harbored as resentment.

The more I live in expectancy, the less I am disappointed, angry, and frustrated. The more I live in expectancy, the more opportunity I provide the Holy Spirit to grow in me the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Eugene Peterson said, “The aim of the person of faith is not to be as comfortable as possible but to live as deeply as possible.” When I seek my own comfort, it is from a self-perspective that comes from expectations I put on myself and others. As I move to live as deeply as possible, my perspective shifts to expectancy. To what is possible in any particular context of life. What is possible in and through others. What is possible in and through myself. To be clear, it is not complacency or ambivalence. Expectancy is being aware that there are possibilities outside my own expectations; outside my personal dreams or even my imagination; “… immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” as Paul puts it in Ephesians 3:20.

Escaping Expectation is one of those things in the Christian life that is at the same time easy and hard. The easy part comes when we put our focus on Jesus, and it all hinges on how we see. The hard part is living that out in process. The moment-by-moment awareness over a lifetime of renouncing self as our primary motivation. Staying present to God and others.

In the late fall of 2019 God gave me three words “Eyes on me.”; a beautiful rescue I will always cherish . Similarly, Paul taught us to see the unseen and cast off the expectations of the World in 2 Corinthians 4:18 and Romans 12:2 as he urged us to look beyond our circumstances and extract ourselves from "The Matrix." We must not give up or “Tap Out.” We must stay in the ring.

Maybe this, at least in part, is what the commands to love God and love others are all about. Arising each day in expectancy and Escaping Expectation.

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