Abiding in Exile - Expectations 01/21/2021

Abiding in Exile - Expectations 01/21/2021

January 21, 2021

By: Priscilla Joel

When I was a kid, there were many things that I thought would be a very big deal when I became an adult. Activities and actions that I thought I would have to deal with on a regular basis. Here are a few of those things:

  • Quicksand
  • Tongue twisters
  • Pirates
  • Identifying types of rocks
  • Haunted houses

I am not exactly sure where all of these ideas originated from. Some were from school, while others were probably conceived through books I read and movies I watched. But I still carry a considerable amount of knowledge about many of these topics which I expected to be exposed to frequently in my adulthood.
I can recall several instances where I repeated a tongue twister over and over again until I said it so fast, I didn’t know what I was saying anymore. I can also remember always carrying a survival kit around with me—yes, even to school, in case I ever wound up stuck in quicksand or stranded on a pirate ship. To be fair, running around with a survival kit as a child is not something most kids did (or so I am told), but nevertheless, we all have expectations on what our future is to look like.
These expectations can encompass the next several years, months, days or even just the next few minutes. Expectations can be complex and powerful. They can shape the decisions we make, the emotions we experience and the way in which we live our lives. We, as humans, sometimes have a tendency to hang our hopes and happiness on expectations of ourselves, our loved ones and our world.
If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t expect to spend several months quarantining away from your loved ones because of a virus. And as I’ve been reflecting on the expectations that I have and hold, I am reminded of something James and John once said to Jesus in Mark 10:37— “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” While following Jesus is meaningful and fulfilling, it is human nature to search for immediate advantages from living this way of life and measuring progress. The sons of Zebedee had expectations for what their life will look like now that they were actively following Jesus.
What’s more is that the people of Jesus’ time also had expectations of what the Son of God would be like when he came to save them from the Roman Empire. People expected Jesus to rule with an iron fist and condemn those they saw as the enemy of God. But when they saw a humble, proletarian with no interest in hurting anyone, they were less than pleased. Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. 
Having expectations is not inherently a terrible thing. In fact, they can help us set goals, boundaries and guide our lives. But I have found throughout the course of this period of self-isolation that sometimes, the expectations that I hold for myself do me more harm than good. With all this extra time, I tell myself, there is so much I could be doing. I hold expectations for who and what I want to be as each month passes during this pandemic. Yet it’s harder, but even more important that we remember that not meeting expectations is not equivalent to failure.
When we have expectations, we hope and believe that a certain outcome will come to pass. And when that specific outcome fails to match our expectations, we can sometimes see that as a failure. Either as a failure of our own ability or of someone else’s. We then end up hurt, disappointed or even angry about how things turn out. It’s easy to line up our to-do lists now with activities and chores to improve our lives. And it’s harder, yet even more important that we remember that not meeting expectations is not equivalent to failure. 
Each day offers us new challenges to address and cope with. And in these unprecedented times that are bound to last for at least several more weeks, I think we all deserve to give ourselves some extra grace and compassion as we strive do our best even when our best doesn’t meet our expectations. 
Perhaps what 2020 has taught us to do best is to expect nothing other than the unexpected.