Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Expectations

The doors open….”4 please,” and off we go. The exciting metal box takes us to an adventurous land of wonder, filled with keyboards, staplers, and fax machines. It is a little before 8 as I walk around the corner to a new world, filled with busy fingers, name plates, and almost harmonious incoming phone calls. The low level of chatter sounds like some sort of melodic office chant. The smell of cheap coffee permeates my sense of smell. My journey is almost finished and I am within yards of my destination when I am greeted by something like a monster, a monster empowered and fueled by negativity. Within the first 10 minutes of being at work I am bombarded with negativity. I mean it’s not even 8am yet and people have already decided that they are going to have a bad day. It is a little disheartening that this negative attitude towards things begins so early in the day and then further dictates the rest of the afternoon.

When thinking about this writing I intended it to go in a different direction than the path we will walk down now. My initial thought was in response to something I had read earlier in the day. I was casually reading through the book of Philippians, a letter from Paul, earlier that morning. Paul, who is in jail and being beaten and all kind of other things I am sure the jailing system of that day enjoyed, tells his recipients that he has found a way to be content in everything. Now this is coming from a man being treated like an animal in a cruel jail system by an even crueler government. He tells the Philippians to do everything without grumbling or arguing so that they will shine among other men like stars. My initial writing was going to go something like this:

Paul was a prisoner being cruelly treated and is content. Inspired by the Spirit he says to not grumble in anything and not to argue. You live in a free country, have a job in a tough economy, and are sitting in the air conditioning, shut up and stop complaining!

I now realize that thought process may be true but somewhat simple and shallow though.

I am currently reading, and almost finished with, Don Miller’s new deal, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It is a great book, such an easy read, and full of thought provoking insights. One of the chapters I happened to read this morning was The Reason God Hasn’t Fixed You Yet. The Danish culture is the happiest in the world. There happiness comes from low expectations. The point is not lowering your standards, but considering your expectations and where they come from, if they are fair or logical. He basically says that God will not come in and fix everything while we are here on earth or in our lifetimes like some great movie provide resolution because it is through pain that we learn and through pain we grow. I sat down the book after I read that chapter because he came at life from a perspective I had not been taught. I had been taught that everything will be alright, Jesus will fix it all. But if we do learn through pain, would God be cruel to not let us grow and learn and become more like Him if He did fix it all and not allow pain?

This got me thinking about expectations and how, like everyone else, I have them. So what is it that causes my co-workers to attack me with their bitterness first thing in the morning? Circumstances are ever changing and so it is to be understood that circumstances are not within the control of any given person. Maybe that guy who cut you off in traffic, customer who yelled at you on the phone, manager who made a decision you did not agree with, or co-worker who handled a situation in a way you contrary to yours is not crazy or as bad as you or I may make them out to be, maybe we are unfairly placing expectations on them. Maybe flawed expectations are the problem sometimes. I thought I was going to be judged and thrown out of a friend’s house one week when I made a comment in a conversation. We were talking about how cool it is to see Christians move into urban neighborhoods with the intentions of being the light of Christ. I poked fun at those Christians who say that all people need in areas like that is Jesus and how shallow I thought that theology was when I noticed the glare in eyes and eye brows perched atop foreheads. I continued to say that just going into a neighborhood and preaching doesn’t solve anything because even if they know Jesus and get the gospel that doesn’t fix all the problems, the socioeconomic grab bag of dilemmas they face daily. If the expectation set is that having faith in Christ is going to solve all of our problems and we will be all good hasn’t He failed us all then? The answer would be yes based on that expectation, but I do not know a God that fails, however, I do know a people who have some crooked expectations and theology. We are the problem in our pain, not God or the lack of His presence. Our expectations have made us wanting more and left us in need.

Idealism is not practical and leaves the hopeful empty. Utopia is not the point of this. The point of Jesus is not to create a grandeur escape from this pain, it is to make this pain beautiful and give hope that we can make it, we can live in pain, we can live amongst the fallen world. I think life looks richer like that. I’m not waiting for this delivery from here, I’m looking for completion of here. I think Heaven will manifest itself through a redeemed people, through scars and wounds, blood and tears rather than some easy cop out because our expectations are weak and idealistic. What if we took the dull prism we glared through when looking at life and flipped it upside down or better yet cleaned it (take some CLR to that bad boy!). Instead of thinking that customer is an idiot for not knowing something; we should check our expectation of them knowing it first. Maybe instead of expecting our spouse to know what we are thinking or if we’re having a bad day we could tell them so we wouldn’t get frustrated when they act like they don’t know, we’ve placed an unfair expectation on them. If we did not expect our spouse to be everything than maybe we would not be disappointed when they are not. We cannot expect the customer to understand all the complexities of our business therefore cannot expect them to ask “smart questions.” Does this make sense? Maybe the rest of the world isn’t crazy, maybe our expectations are bad. Maybe Jesus isn’t just a religion; maybe our expectations of what He is and does are wrong. We cannot expect Jesus to change the world if we expect Him to just fix it all, He does not wear a shiny white bath robe, a brilliant purple sash, nor does he have a clean shaved beard or hair. He is a nitty-gritty old Jewish guy who wants to get through the tough spots of life with you not for you.

May you check your expectations at the door. May you see the world in a new light and see Jesus without idealistic or irrelevant expectations. May you change the world around you with the knowledge that expectations might be the problem sometimes. May you have a great week at work, may you not feel stressed, may your attitude not be based upon false expectations.

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