Expectations are part of life. They are. We expect certain things. We expect that hard work will pay off …not just in studies or at work, but even in relationships. We expect that if we do this, then that occurs. We grow up learning certain equations, not just 1+1=2, but equations like eating well + exercise = good health, or working hard + studying our craft = success at work, or saving money + spending wisely = financial security. Often these equations are spot on, but sometimes they…aren’t.
Life is full of curve balls. It is. I’ve been at enough baseball games to know that even the best of batters with a perfect swing can be ready to blast the ball out of the park, but then, just at the last second, the ball takes an unexpected turn and ….STRIKE!!! He anticipated the ball to go one way, and then it takes a major turn. The difference between striking out or hitting a home run ball can have as much to do with what’s been thrown as it does with the skill and talent of the batter. There’s always a piece we control and the a piece we can’t.
Some curve balls in life can look like unexpected illness. Others can look like a child born with challenges that we would never in a million years choose for them. Other curve balls in life can look like a job loss. Still others can look like loved ones struggling with addiction or alcoholism. Others can look like an accident or unexpected passing of a loved one. Other curve balls are those we throw ourselves…stupid mistakes that end up changing the trajectory of where we were headed. The list goes on and on. But they are one and the same, because what we expect, what we anticipate, well, it looks different than what we may have thought.
Wise choices matter. I know they do, but this post isn’t about what got us here…what was the catalyst or path that led this way. This post is a few thoughts on where we go from here when life looks a lot different than was once anticipated. I think the step is to accept.
Again, it’s not about accepting stupid choices or accepting wrongs done to us. Nope. I’m not talking about accepting that. I’m just talking about accepting the present reality. Not fighting it. Not living in the what if’s or what could’ve beens, but fully embracing the now. Because I’m thinking that a whole heck of a lot more days of our lives can be wasted if there’s a constant dredging up of the past or fearing the future. Nope. No room for that in this healing process of the now.
I’ve mentioned this quote so many times, but the older I get, the more power it has in my life. Elisabeth Elliot often said “In acceptance lies peace.” The younger me, oh how she wanted to fight that…to not accept certain things…to constantly be reaching, pushing, and forcing and squeezing things into what that box of expectations looked like. And, well, that can force out peace big time. Because some things just take time and can’t be forced. And some folks just might not have the same picture of what that “box” of expectations look like. Yes, the older I get, the more I see how much peace and even beauty and gratitude grow out of accepting what is in this place called now.
Well meaning folks can sometimes try to ‘rescue’ us from that acceptance. “No, you shouldn’t be doing this or that or feeling this or that” or “No, let me make it easier for you by doing this or that.” And sometimes that can be all well and good, but sometimes when we are trying to be brave in the “different” areas of our lives, folks wanting to rescue us from our “different” can just make things a bit more difficult. Not intentionally. The underlying message of people ‘helping’ or ‘fixing’ our situation can actually hinder the process. It can reinforce that whole idea of how things are supposed to be… and focuses on the pain of what is not rather than the beauty of what is. Grace breathes life into the different turns our lives can take. Grace lives in the now. As J, Meyers says, Grace can turn what appears to be a mess into a beautiful message. That is, if we accept, deal, and heal.
Yeah, am thinking Elisabeth Elliot was right. Acceptance is key. It helps when what we expect isn’t quite the reality. Am thinking acceptance helps us catch glimpses of the things to be grateful for in the new realities. And sometimes it’s about just that—learning to be thankful. It’s amazing how we appreciate the little things when we’ve experienced loss.The sun always seems a lot brighter and is much more appreciated after long periods of rain. (Take it from me on that one! It has rained SO much in North Carolina lately!)
But back to expectations… I know that the definition of hope has to do with expectations. I looked it up online and it says, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” But I think of HOPE as being so much more than that. It’s not about expectation for one certain thing. It is a sense of trust, a faith that is in the now and the future and transcends circumstance because it is bigger than circumstance. That’s why when I looked at ‘definition 2’ of hope online, I smiled so big, because the definition said “a feeling of trust”. Well,I think definition folks should put that as first because I think big-picture-hope is so much greater than circumstance or “a certain thing”. My hope isn’t on me or my ability to hit the ball out the park, (though I never want to give up trying…). My hope is in the God who loves me in the middle of it all…whether my ‘all’ involves things that are great or things that are so not. It’s not about the circumstance, it’s about the grace, the Presence that is with us through whatever is we’re facing.
Joshua 1:9 says “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I love that. It doesn’t say to go it on our own, or figure it out. It says that we can be strong and courageous because we’re not meant to be alone in it. We can choose to do things in our own strength. I know that full well. But we’re designed, created to walk hand in hand with our Creator…whether we’re walking in the park, or not…and that changes everything. I shared this recently but love it so much. It’s a quote by Roy Lessin that says, “Victory is not found in the ease of our circumstance, or the strength of our own resources, but in the presence of the Lord who is with us.” I love that so much. And I believe it. There’s hope in His Presence.
So I don’t know what ‘curve balls’ you’re facing in life. I’ve had my share of a few but have more things than I can count to be thankful for. Life might look a bit different than I had expected. But today, as I went for a walk with Tanner, well, I smiled because the things that my lens turns to…well, it’s usually the thing that sticks out….the thing that is ‘different’. The red flowers standing out in the dark woods, the pop of yellow against a lichens-covered stone, the butterfly not in a field of flowers, but on a graveled path—that’s where my eye turned. Different doesn’t mean bad or wrong. It’s just different…and the very things that might not fit in to our little boxes, might just be the thing that helps God’s grace stand out to us, and maybe one day, to others.
When we live with our hope being in definition 1–that of something turning out a certain way, well, things can be pretty disconcerting. But when I live by definition 2 of hope–the one that has to do with trust, well, that sure gives a lot of freedom to live beyond the boxes of expectations that we can try to fit our lives into. Bottom line, there’s freedom and grace to color outside of the lines. Might be a little bit messy sometimes, but am thinking it can still be beautiful. So when life’s equations don’t add up, well, am just sending out a little reminder to ask God to enter in and help you see it in a different light…the light of His grace that has a way of changing everything.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18