As I’ve mentioned I am fortunate to vacation on Lake Michigan each August. The beach pictured above is one of my favorite places on earth, and every year while I am there I get to see the same gal pals. One of my pals is Pearl. Pearl and I are kind of related, in a very remote way. Pearl’s husband’s grandfather was my grandfather’s brother. Regardless, I adore Pearl, as does every single person who has ever had occasion to meet her. What a gift that I get to hang out with her and borrow her comfy beach chairs day after perfect day.
One gorgeous afternoon last month, Pearl and I were hanging out on the beach when she shared with me the key to a happy life: no expectations. Although Pearl has a way of making every conversation hilarious, and we were definitely laughing a lot about this “no expectation” philosophy, this wise mother of five boys was also being serious. And she’s right. Expectations matter. A lot.
Later that same night we were at a “talent” show. We were not participants, but sort of just passing through. The two acts that we saw were not of the highest caliber, to say the least.
“I’ve never been to this talent show before,” I said. “But there appears to be a pretty low bar.”
“Low bar?” Pearl asked, smiling and yet perplexed. “There’s no bar!” And it was one of those moments where you are so on the same page that you can just laugh and make the connection at the same time, without a single word.
Low bars and low expectations are fine — dandy, in some circumstances, like family talent shows. But living with no bar, free from expectations is something different, something truly profound and freeing. And this is not a defeatist attitude; it’s not because you’ve been disappointed before (although who hasn’t been?). It’s not giving in and saying “oh well, I don’t care.” It has nothing to do with apathy. It has everything to do with trust — trusting that God has a plan. That you don’t have to figure it out. That He is Good. That He will take care of you.
Whenever we experience disappointment, we should examine our expectations. I had occasion to do this just yesterday. I had such a great morning, but then was discouraged and disappointed about a couple of things in the afternoon — oh the highs and lows of life. Grumbling about it to my sympathetic husband didn’t help much, but an honest assessment of my expectations did. Reminding myself that only Jesus never fails helped a lot.
In Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts she says that her mother often warned, “expectations kill relationships.” So often this proves true. Where is the life being choked out of you because of someone’s expectations? And where are you doing the choking? We can’t truly live without any expectations of anyone. But we can resolve to be aware of them, to recognize that they matter, and that unrealistic expectations are a sure path to disappointment.
Paul says that he learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11). He couldn’t do that without the help of the Holy Spirit, and an omnipresent awareness that expectations matter.
May I follow Paul, as He follows Christ, and be content no matter my circumstances!