Expectations.   Expectations are good.  Expectations keep us motivated and growing.  Expectations keep us from settling for less than we deserve.  With one caveat.  We dare not become too invested in the ultimate outcome of our expectations.  It’s one thing to have expectations; it’s another thing to get angry when things work out differently than we anticipate. Expectations are not the same as outcomes. Of course, Donald Trump wanted to win the last election, but wanting to win did not give him the right to try to overthrow the election.  Instead of accepting what was, he became embroiled in a blame and shame-game, throwing our nation into chaos.  Expectations are not guarantees; they are simply something hoped for, something worked toward, something anticipated.  Expectations are not outcomes.

We all have expectations.  I doubt that it is possible to avoid having expectations.  Expectations about family dynamics.  Expectations about our working conditions.  Expectations about our government, health care, our justice system,  religion, and God.   How often have you thought or heard someone say, “How could God allow that to happen.”  Or, “I expected better of the church. How could it allow priests and pastors to be sexually abusive and still continue to serve?”  Or  “How can he claim to follow Jesus and be a racist?”  So much of our religion is based on unrealistic expectations and man-made rules.   We want God to do for us what we need to do for ourselves.  We want God to intervene when things get difficult, to fix things when we screw up, or wars break out because of our selfishness.  We demand God to do this or that for us when we pray, and then when things don’t play out the way we want, we doubt the reality of God.  

I have always found Step 11 to be helpful as it encourages me to improve my conscious contact with the God of my understanding.  Through prayer and meditation I am to pray only for God’s will for my life and the courage to carry that out.  But how are we to know God’s will?  Does God make decisions for us and then tell us what to do or has God given us what we need, then trusting us to do the right thing?   Is God a puppeteer or has God, once He created the universe and the Earth, stepped back expecting us to make our own choices based on the basic principles He’s given us? Principles such as the Ten Commandments, The Golden Rule, The Great Commandment, and Micah’s “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God”

The older I get, the harder it is for me to pray for specific outcomes.  I still pray for healing, for peace, for racial healing, etc,  but I no longer expect God to do for us what we need to do for ourselves or others.  I have had too many experiences in which something that seemed terrible at the time, such as our family addictions,  turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  How am I to know what is the better outcome for my expectations?

I am very concerned about what we are doing to our planet, but I neither expect God to step in to fix Global Warming nor do I doubt that God will out in the long run.  We humans may well self-destruct because of our selfishness and greed, but God and the Universe will remain.  Our human limitations cause us to see everything through a very tiny window in time.   It appears that human life has been designed in such a way that we need to confront difficulty and tragedy if we are to learn the lessons God/life seeks to teach us.  It’s our mistakes and failures that remind us of why selfishness, greed, warfare, hatred,  etc, actually works against our good and the good of mankind.   

God, grant me, grant us the serenity to accept the things I/we cannot change (including the outcomes of our expectations), the courage to change the things I/we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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Ray Miller
Ray Miller
1 month ago

Thank you, Joyce, for your clarity and wisdom. Your column is one of the main reasons I subscribe to this site.

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