By Beth Demme
Have you ever received something you really wanted, only to discover it wasn’t at all what you expected?
I do a lot of online shopping (probably too much). Every once in awhile, I get something that isn’t what I expected. One time I ordered a bar stool, but I didn’t check the dimensions well enough. When it came in, it was ten inches too short. It was a vanity stool, not a bar stool!
It wasn’t quite what I expected.
I was able to return the stool easily enough. But it’s not always that simple, is it?
Sometimes life isn’t what we expect.
Becoming a mom was harder than I expected. My husband and I traveled around the world to find our children. (Literally. We flew 13,500 miles round-trip … twice …for each child; over 50,000 miles total.) We had to be approved by a local social worker, the State of Florida, the US Government, and local and regional governments in Russia.
Because I so deeply desired motherhood, I expected it to be beautiful and easy and effortless. It is beautiful–beyond my expectations–but it’s not easy.
Has there been something in your life like this? Something you dreamed of and actively pursued, but ultimately found it didn’t match your expectations?
Maybe you longed for marriage, only to find that staying married isn’t as easy as getting married.
Maybe it’s business. Maybe you dreamed about launching your career or your company, only to discover you under-estimated the hard days.
Maybe it’s church. Maybe you expected the bride of Christ to be flawless, but instead you’ve found that church-folks are broken messed-up people, just like you.
When life isn’t what we expected, we might wish we could do a return like I did with that too-short stool.
Expectations aren’t inherently bad, but they can keep us from living loved. There’s a difference between living expectantly and living with expectations.
For me, living expectantly means leaving space for God to work. Trying to live up to expectations (my own or those imposed by other people) leaves me struggling for control. I’ve wasted countless opportunities for joy trying to match myself to a set of expectations.
The Bible uses a wonderful metaphor for this: the potter and the clay.
This metaphor first appears in the Old Testament in Isaiah (or “Third Isaiah” if you’re a Bible stickler). The prophet is pleading with God to restore his people after civil war, invasion, and exile. The prophet says, “Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
Later, God told another prophet, Jeremiah, to visit a potter’s house. Jeremiah saw the potter working at the pottery wheel with a piece of clay. The potter tried to create something, but it didn’t quite come together so “he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” (Jeremiah 18:4) God doesn’t wait for Jeremiah to see the significance, he blurts it out: “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” (Jeremiah 18:6) (See also Romans 9:20-21)
It’s a dose of reality. Even though I may feel like a broken shard of pottery, I’m actually still clay in the hands of the God who loves me.
I can live expectantly because I’m still a work in progress.
As a work in progress, I’ve discovered three ways living with expectations keeps me from living loved. There’s too much here for one blog post, so I’m going to look at them one at a time over the next several weeks. Here’s a preview:
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What part of your life is different than you expected? Does that stop you from living loved? What does it mean to you that you are a work in progress? Tell me about it in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.
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