What do you expect?

As I sit in my weathered, leather chair that I rescued from the thrift store, I can feel the weak, spring sunshine streaming in through the slightly opened door of my She Shed. It starts to warm up the inside of my writing space, and I notice the dandelions sprouting among blades of new spring grass on our unmowed lawn.

This vividly reminds me that each one of us has so many unspoken expectations about the way we think our life should go, and these unspoken expectations can easily trip us up. If not recognized for what they really are, they can cause significant pain and disappointment to the extent that we are unable to enjoy the life we have because we compare it to the one we created inside our heads.

We paint pictures inside our heads of what we imagined something should be—based not on truth, but on the voices and images we have let into our minds and then allowed to permeate our hearts. The only way I know how to get rid of these unhelpful expectations is to allow God into those spaces and dreams and permit his voice to rebuild a new image built on Him.

I have had to do this many, many times and no doubt will continue to engage in this process for many more years to come. Sometimes it’s an expectation that I didn’t even know existed until I was denied it, then I notice my reaction.

A good example of this—and the one I was thinking about early this morning—is the first unspoken expectation I ever really noticed. Mike and I had been married a few years, and we had just moved to Cambridge for Mike’s first job as a vicar. We had packed up our few second-hand pieces of furniture from our city apartment and moved them to a sweet, little house just off Mill Road in Cambridge. It was a great house, and with it came our first garden, or yard, that was really ours. This was when I discovered I had an unspoken expectation that Mike and I would happily spend many Saturday afternoons working together in the garden. I thought this because that’s what I had seen my parents do. Growing up, I fondly remember spending many weekends buying bedding plants and trees followed by my mum and dad planting them in the garden. It was a wonderful project that they both loved and enjoyed doing together. Mike, however, does not like gardening. He had no interest in it and preferred to watch football on a Saturday afternoon rather than spend it pushing a lawnmower. Saturdays would then turn into my grumpy day—the one where doors shut loudly and sighs were heavy. Once I realized where this expectation and my bad mood came from, I was able to own it and get rid of it. It wasn’t that my motive was bad; it was simply just a dream I had created in my childhood when I had no idea who I would spend my life with and what our life would be like. Then I decided to let it go, I stopped nagging and mentioning the weeds and the length of the lawn, and I began planning other things we both liked do on a Saturday.

Sometimes the expectation doesn’t affect anyone else besides you. It can make you dissatisfied with the place you are and the people you are with. It can make you unable to experience real joy or peace and certainly isn’t what God intended for us.

Unrealized expectations can be about many things. I have seen them at all stages of our lives. It is often centered around motherhood—either the lack of it or what it’s really like. It can be about the fact that you and everyone else around thought you would be married by now or at least be engaged. It can be that you thought your children would be bright and beautiful instead of unique and strong-willed. Then, of course, there are all the expectations surrounding our standing within a company or community; after you worked so hard and earned all your qualifications you expected a job for life, or at least a few more years. There might also be expectations about the type of house you would be living in or what part of the country you would raise your kids. These issues are all really difficult, and I am not diminishing that fact at all. I just have noticed that the sooner we put down our dreams and pick up our reality the quicker God is able to use us.

So now as the sun is setting and the chill returns to the shed, I wonder what expectations you have that God is highlighting so that you can lay them down and walk away in freedom, in the direction your loving, heavenly Father has planned for you.

12 Comments

  • Susan Wells says:

    I “heart” this.

  • Linda says:

    Well said, Sally…
    The LORD has been working on this in my life over many years… I am improving, but still “go there” sometimes until I wise up and move on with the plans a God has for me. My expectations were a “grandma experience” just like the one my mom and MIL had, with all their kids and grandchildren living around them and gathering together for holidays and birthdays, etc. When the reality is that one of our kids has been a missionary in The Middle East for 13 years (and 4 of my grand babies were born there) and the other two munchkins are in NJ. For 20 years, even they were 12 hrs from us. For the last 18 mo we have lived more like 2 hrs from NJ… But all in all, nothing has worked out the way I saw it in my minds eye. However, the LORD called our youngest son to the mission field, and he did just as we had raised him to do… Obey God’s voice. The eldest son is very active in his church and on worship team in NJ… and became the electrical engineer there, (which allows him to help support his brother). bOth are great husbands and dads … And loving sons. The dream was further complicated because a lack of the ability to be granted residency has made it impossible for 4 of our grandkids to come to the US for the last 8 years… So we have to travel there, and I have health issues (and financial ones) that keep us from going very often. We miss them terribly, but are thankful for Skype… And for our trip last June (after the youngest turned 2). So we pray … As they are also in harms way every day. And when my son and I talk, and mention the sadness we feel, we always remind ourselves that one day… In the new kingdom, we will all be together… This world is not our home. Keeping an eternal perspective helps us keep moving forward in joy, despite the unmet expectations. Our God is faithful! ?

    • Sally Breen says:

      I am sorry its been so hard but very glad that you can say God is faithful.I pray that you will your family might stay safe and that you will stay peaceful.

  • Linda says:

    Thanks, Sally

  • Jo van der Schoor says:

    Very timely. I have been thinking on this for a bit and talking about it with my husband and a TOM fruend in the USA. A new day dawns!

  • cath hill says:

    Very timely reminder for me that my life is not my own, it is God’s and he holds the bigger picture. I may not understand it but I can choose to trust the one who does.

    Thank you.

  • Terry May says:

    We have had to walk through this many times and wonder what ever happened with our dream to move to London and work with you guys. Was all this God led, where would we be if that all worked out as planned? We are totally Blessed in all that God has done in our life and having four daughters that love God and only want to do His will. The what if seems to always lift his ugly head, I learned a few years ago that God’s will is not a noun, a thing, a promotion, when we finally get ________ but it is a verb our continual walk and worship of Him.

    • Sally Breen says:

      Loved hearing from you, it is true we can only partially understand our lives here on earth and can look forward to the complete understanding at some point in the future. There are really always so many questions. Love to Cindy and your girls

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