An epilogue on Expectations

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilige of sharing a message with Fellowship Church.  The topic that I’d been given was the truimphal entry.  After praying and discussing the issue with Marty, I decided that the thing that God wanted me to focus on was expectations: those around Jesus had this set of mostly wrong expectations as Jesus entered Jeruselum.   Similiairly, today, we often pin our expectations on Jesus and act frustrated with him when refuses to be boxed into them.

As I prayed and thought and discussed the topic, a thing occured to me.  I didn’t really get much of a chance to work these ideas into the sermon.  I thought I’d spout them here.

Expectations aren’t all bad.  They are in fact, closely aligned to faith: we are supposed to expect that God is active in the world today; we are supposed to expect that God works miracles, we are supposed to expect that he loves us.

I think the best way to navigate through this question about when expectations are good and when expectations are bad is to look at our Earthly relationships.

This isn’t a perfect solution.  But at the very least it illuminates how a lack of expectations is just as destructive as the wrong kinds of expectations.

The expectations I have had on my wife (and that she has had on me) are in fact a pretty good litmus test, a sort-of vital sign, for our relationship as a whole.

When we were first married neither of us liked the other very much.  We had significant expectations on each other.  These expectations were out of touch with who we were.    She expected me to be a Christian dude and act like it, for example.  The problem was that I wasn’t a Christian dude and saw no reason to act like it.  

What caused our to get begin to heal was that we dropped the expectations we had of each other.  Since the only expectations we had were not realistic ones, this was a slight improvement.  But only a slight improvement.

Because when we don’t expect anything of a person we are not holding them accountable.  When we are intimately connected with a person, to not expect anything of them is to really place them at your mercy.

If we expect nothing of a person we don’t expect them to treat us respectfully.  If we expect nothing of a person we don’t expect them to be productive or to carry their weight.

There’s a bigger problem than the idea that it’s bad for yourself to expect nothing of the other person.  This bigger problem is that it is bad for them.

It was not healthy for me that my wife did not hold me accountable for my behavior and decisions.  Nor was it healthy for her that I did not hold her similarly accountable.

A final illustration:

I never planned on being a dad or a family man.  When I announced I was going to be a father to friends they had trouble with it.  Many didn’t share my prior aversion to families.  But they’d come to expect me to be that way.  Shattering these expectations was so uncomfortable that some of them simply drifted out of my life rather than reaquiant themselves to the new me.

Jesus doesn’t change like I changed.  But we would sometimes rather drift out of touch with him than adjust our expectations of him.  Our expectations are only healthy if they begin with who we are.  Where fallible humanity is concerned they should call us to be the best we can be.  Where Jesus is concerned, they should rest assured that he is the best anyone could possibly be. 

What do you think about expectations and God?


Published by


The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s