Expectations are as common as bread on the table. We imagine what we want out of life for ourselves and others. We make plans and each new day is a step into that future. What will it be like? What would I like it to be?
Our expectations have a lot to do with our happiness. Goals set too low leave us unfulfilled. Hopes set too high will disappoint. So where is the median point for realistic expectations that can be achieved giving us a sense of satisfaction?
The solution for some is not to have any expectations. Without expectations you can’t be disappointed. Others risk to live life to its fullest – to see what can be achieved with effort, even to becoming co-creators with God to make something beautiful.
The first step for any accomplishment is to have a realistic understanding of ourselves and others. No one is perfect. That imperfection is part of the mix that can mess up expectations. Surprises can change the course of our lives too. An unexpected opportunity may bring new vigor and excitement to your life beyond anything you anticipated. Or a member of your family may be diagnosed with a serious mental or physical illness creating a dark cloud over a formerly bright future. Where did these bleeps come from that changed expectations?
A dear friend of mine who is a volunteer caregiver to patients in hospice care says that one has to learn how to have a new normal. One can still pursue hopes and dreams, but when the pattern of life is intercepted by unforeseen events, one needs courage to either rejoice or grieve when approaching acceptance of the situation… at least for the moment, and then move forward with expectations that are consistent with a new normal. This acceptance is not fatalistic resolve but rather a chance to live creatively within the given-ness of one’s life.
The brilliant theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, said, “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” When he was 21 he was diagnosed with ALS disease. Now, almost entirely paralyzed, he communicates through a speech generating device. Nevertheless, he moved through depression, obtained his D. Phil. degree, and continues to discover and teach the mysteries of the universe. Through ups and downs he appears to have arrived at a new normal with expectations that achieve his goals.
There is a tendency to think that when life is going our way God is on our side. When our expectations are knocked down we wonder where God is. Our need to be in control is tested.
The English author and theologian, C. S. Lewis, noted that there are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” The fact is that God is with us no matter what happens. God is in the now. All that happens is not God’s will; but whatever happens God is with us to help us achieve worthy expectations and to help us adjust to new norms when expectations are interrupted. Regardless of the circumstances, God seeks a relationship with us. It is a relationship of love and trust. It is more important than any first prize in expectations achieved.