This spring I did a series on expectations – what it actually would look like if we tried to live our lives without them. If you go back and read the series, you’ll see I never come to any kind of solid thesis (that wasn’t the point). But I did come out of it realizing that as great as it sounds to avoid hurt in life, it just didn’t seem possible to truly live without expectations of some form. It seemed like regularly the logical part of my brain collided with my heart. And I let my heart win.
Here’s what’s funny.
I think that I hoped deep down that I would, through the writing, stop having expectations of the people in my life. That somehow I would have learned this powerful lesson through all those painstaking words I wrote and felt… that somehow I would be free of what often hurts me. Disappointment.
Yeah. That didn’t happen.
Surely goodness will follow me.
I don’t know why I wanted that, other than the obvious reason of it seems like such a great way to live your life. But I did, because I grow weary. Because never expecting anything means never getting hurt or disappointed.
And when it comes to people, that’s when I really, really love this idea.
But when it comes to people, that’s when I just can’t accept t his idea.
But I still want it that way. And as I briefly write about in the series, I know people who do live their lives this way. And these people have hurt me. This is probably why I just can’t believe in living my life this way.
That didn’t keep me from wanting it, though.
The human heart is a funny thing.
Mine is made up of tiny little pieces. Each with their own rooms. Rooms in which I place things like memories, feelings, pictures of those I love, and maybe even the people themselves. And sometimes when the people leave they take a piece with them. And my heart aches when I can’t feel them in there.
He pierced my heart
I’ve carefully placed each of these people inside the rooms of my heart. There’s not a lot of real estate there, so I choose carefully. I think that people must know that, right? So shouldn’t they view that place as something special, a privilege? Something to not be afraid of, but something to even cherish?
I am poured out like water,
They probably should cherish this real estate. And they probably shouldn’t take a piece of it with them when they leave. Greedy little bastards.
But not all of them want to be there. And this is what hurts. Because if you are in my life it’s because you’ve inspired me and challenged me at some point. There is little I value more in a relationship.
I think that our expectations of others rise the more we care about them. Because when we begin to care more about a person it comes with the realization that you need them in your life, and that is exactly why you care more about them. I guess you could even call this selfish, because I hear some wise people say that if our expectations are high that means we aren’t grateful for what we receive. Ugh. It’s pretty hard to refute this argument.
But I also know it’s pretty hard to refute some of my arguments, too.
Because aren’t expectations just a way we communicate what we need and want from each other? I know that God created us to need people, because Genesis 2:18 was before the Fall. Dealing with this need and what it looks like is the struggle, because we are living post-Fall. But because disappointment is a result of lost expectations, how does that mean we should stop having them altogether? Just to make life easier? To let each other off the hook? To live this life making sure no one holds us back, rather than working to help each other become better versions of ourselves?
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
Are we not to live our lives helping each other be the best version of ourselves possible, despite our sin? Or, in other words, living to push back the Fall?
This happens every single time I write about this. I find an argument for living life without expectations that I can actually get behind, but when I seek to work it out with my words, I end up here.
Perhaps because it’s simply not in my nature.
One of my friends who lives life without expectations, I realized, is also getting a pretty sweet deal out of this. Because I know he believes in living his life this way, I cannot have any expectations of him. Which means he never has to come through for me and I will accept that. (If I drink his kool-aid.) He never has to fulfill a commitment and I do not have the right to be angry when he disappoints me.
And it’s worked, because over the years, I've asked certain things of him. But I've learned not to expect him to come through. Now that we live in different states, we mostly just text or talk on the phone. If I ask for his opinion on something or have a question for him, I might text him, knowing I will likely not get a response. I still want one, all the while thinking I won’t get one because most of the time he doesn’t respond. And he doesn’t "have" to respond because I stopped a long time ago because it was easier than continuing to be hurt by him.
I’ve known him for 15 years. He’s bared his soul with me. I’ve bared mine with him. We gone through life together. The death of a parent, the changing of careers, lost and found faith. And I don't feel close to him anymore. Maybe I never really was.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;