On throwing out expectations [and living with expectancy]

White snow flakes dance outside our large, open window –A somewhat normal occurrence in these mountains I’ve called home the last nine months. The slow, deep song of my tea kettle warming water breaks the silence of our home.

I breath in. And out. Today there is no ‘To-Do’ list.

Looking outside, I smile with contentment at the gift I’ve seen more times this winter than perhaps any other winter in my twenty-eight years.

The image of the snow is juxtaposed to the picture I’ve been carrying around and thinking about the last few weeks. I grind my coffee beans, thinking back to a sweltering day almost seven years ago.

It was sticky and humid. Beads of sweat clung to nearly every surface of my body. One of the hottest summers in middle Tennessee history to date. I was twenty-one years old, newly graduated, and completely lost about what I was supposed to do and where I was supposed to go. And there, on some steps outside of a recreation building at camp, a family friend spoke over me.

“There is a difference between having expectations and living with expectancy.”

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I thought I understood what she meant. But I can now see that I am only beginning to walk in the freedom of this truth. In marriage and in life, one of the biggest reoccurring themes I see playing out in my life is having predetermined expectations for how things ought to go. I make plans and dream dreams and assume that my plan is the best plan.

And then, undoubtedly, when things don’t turn out the way I feel they ought, I bear the burden of disappointment. I mourn the loss of something that was never even mine to begin with. I grumble under my breath that God didn’t hear me. 

It wraps unnecessary shackles around my wrists and ankles. It bruises and cuts and burns. And then I wonder why I am so unhappy, a dark cloud covering my eyes to every other good thing around me.

I choose my own unhappiness. I chain myself down because I lift up my own expectations up to heaven instead of just being expectant that God has an infinite amount of joy for His children.

I’m sure so many of us can relate. How many times have we crumbled to our knees in grief or anger when we didn’t get our way? When we didn’t get the job we were sure we were supposed to have? When we were positive God was leading us down a path and then the outcome was different than we expected. When our loss was greater than our joy. When the timing was off or the proposal didn’t come or our financial goals weren’t met.

Couldn’t we all make a list a mile long?

But let me tell you, friends, there is so much freedom in letting go of your own expectations and just waking up each day waiting and expectant of what God will do. 

Because He WILL do something. That is a promise we can build a life on. 

Someone recently asked me what changed in me. Why suddenly, after months of lamenting a move to a new city and a lack of a clear path I was so much lighter and content. Nothing, seemingly, has changed. In some ways, we are still here in a strange land. I still don’t feel quite settled or at home. I still daily miss my community and my family. I still daily wonder what God is up to. And He just keeps throwing surprises at us that were not at all a part of MY plan.

My answer was simple. I lowered my expectations. 

At first, this can be taken negatively. Like I somehow have settled for less than my goals or dreams or aspirations. But through my perspective, it feels like quite the opposite. By letting go of my own agenda–by lowering myself and bowing down to the sovereignty of God– I find myself so open to the undoubtedly better plans of God.

By not worrying about tomorrow, I am so free to rejoice in the joy of today.

I could not have dreamed up this life Geoff and I are living. In fact, I wouldn’t have. I would have stayed in my safe little bubble surrounded by familiarity and safety and comfort. But instead we find ourself living out a beautiful life. A life surrounded by beautiful creation. Days full of awkward transition but also such joy. Mornings with surprise snowflakes. Evenings of spontaneously meeting new friends.

It is a slow process, letting go of your own life. But I am so much less anxious and so much more content walking with my hands open to the plans and gifts of God instead of clinging to what I thought He wanted for my husband and me.

Perhaps our only new year resolution for 2019 should be to walk with open hands and open eyes. To wipe away our own list of goals and aspirations and ask God what He’s up to. It’s usually pretty easy to see where God is moving if we slow down and aren’t glued to our own roadmap.

Let’s let Him be our pillar of fire in the night and our comforting cloud by day. Let’s listen for the songs He sings over us. Let’s laugh at the days ahead, knowing that our lives are not our own. 

That is the biggest freedom we can ever know–to remember that we rest in the hands of the creator of the universe. If that isn’t something to throw your head back and laugh at with celebration, I don’t know what is.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

Happy New Year, friends. May this year be filled with so many things you could never have dreamed up yourselves. And in the midst of the pain or disappointment or transition season of life, may you feel His presence and know that He hasn’t left you.

 

 

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