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Expelling expectations

I headed south not too long ago to speak at a youth retreat. I’ve never spoken to a bunch of teens about Jesus before and, honestly, I don’t imagine I’ll be asked back anytime soon.

Saturday night in particular left much to be desired. I tried to talk about our expectations and how sometimes they get in the way of the story God has for us. But as far as I could tell, my efforts appeared to fall short.

Worship was wonderful but the half hour I was on stage seemed plagued by an incoherent jumble of words, a general lack of connected ideas and a poor attempt to convey any sort of lucid lesson. I was thoroughly embarrassed and as I turned my microphone off and headed to the back, I plopped on the floor and began praying.

As I was begging God to either do a miracle with the lackluster monologue I put forth or make me disappear into thin air, something amazing happened.

Despite my presumptions, one girl stood and walked forward in response. The bold action lit the fuse for the rest of the youth and the next hour was spent in both communal and individual prayer. For some, it lasted much longer as they returned to their cabins continuing the conversation my words had somehow triggered.

I was in disbelief at how my prayer had been answered. I witnessed a promise played out; in my inadequacy, his will and power recognized perfection. Then I realized something.

The very topic I’d tried to speak on was the lesson I was tangibly being taught.

My expectations had been blown out of the water. I’d approached the evening with several thoughts:  First, I’d speak well (or at least coherently). Because of how I spoke my audience would react positively and as an added bonus, I’d get some compliments and feel good about myself. But none of my predictions saw fruition in the way I’d envisioned.

I wonder how often we hold onto expectations that get in the way of the better story God desires to write for us.

There are those things we expect to happen that aren’t necessarily negative; in fact, a lot of them are for our own benefit. Lots of expectations set the bar high, give us something to strive for and push us toward our goals. I’m not saying it’s awful for you to expect to graduate or it’s terrible to expect you’ll get that job.

But what I am saying is the other side of the coin warrants attention — or at least a little scrutiny. Every now and then our expectations barely set the bar at all. We settle.

Too often I find that my preconceived ideas obstruct how God wishes to use me, instead of only setting my life up for how I wish to be used by God.

I selfishly settled when I walked onto the stage last weekend expecting certain “results.”  By grace and grace alone those notions I tightly clutched were obliterated.  Not only was the true purpose of my evening fulfilled but the motivations of my heart were laid bare.

C.S. Lewis writes this in The Weight of Glory: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I want to get out of the slum of settling, and finally let go of my selfish expectations, walking into what God has promised me as his beloved.

Photo by Shella Ellen