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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Great Expectations


Life is full of expectations; expectations of things to come, expectations we have of others or ourselves, and expected outcomes to name a few. Whether great or small, some—and for many of us, much of what we as humans expect ends in disappointment. I am not being cynical, just bearing witness to my own experience and the observations of others. Expectations lead to disappointment because they are founded on a faulty premise. Namely, that whatever we expect is either going to be good or bad.

The fallacy in this way of thinking is that good and bad are entirely subjective and temporal judgments. Something that appears good today may prove bad tomorrow, and ill fortune may lead us to un-imagined richness. We are very poor at prophesying. As a friend of mine once observed, we were all born with a crystal ball but it came without instructions.

When we view the world through the lens of good and bad, winners and losers, we predict the outcome. Our dualistic vision limits us to an either/or proposition which is neither realistic nor accurate.

Let’s take relationships for example. I’ve written before that it is impossible to receive love, it can only be given. I say this in the confidence that you will have your own experience of this truth against which you can validate my claim. When we view ourselves as the recipient of love we have unconsciously created an expectation that cannot be met. We are after all, human. That means we are imperfect, make mistakes, say and do things from time to time that may cause someone we care about to feel we have not met their needs. As hard as we may try, we will fail. We are not mind readers, we are not able to know and feel precisely what another person knows and feels, and we carry with us our own bundle of fears, doubts, and behaviors that our loved ones are equally unable to discern.

It is only a question of time before we slip up, react, and do something to upset the equilibrium of our relationship. If we are strong and wise we will be able to navigate this moment and grow through it together. Or perhaps we won’t.

In contrast, when we give love, give it without expectation that it will be returned, or that it has any benefit to us at all; when we love unselfishly, we can never be disappointed. Loving this way is not easy—don’t mistake me. It is hard for us to love this way. Expectation has a way of creeping in and with it the seeds of disappointment.

God, that higher being that dwells within us, loves us unselfishly. He is, in fact, incapable of being selfish. Everything he does, he does for us and all he wants of us is that we rely on him and ask him to meet our needs. If we do, truly expect God to deliver on his promise to ask and receive, we can never be disappointed. He may not provide what we expect—but he will always provide what is best.

So perhaps you think I am being a Pollyanna. After all, people pray to God to deliver them or their loved ones from all manner of terrible things, sickness, depravity, pain, injustice and more. Sometimes those prayers are delivered and other times they appear to be cruelly unmet. How could it be possible that God loves us when he appears to allow things to happen that cause us grief and pain?

The grief we feel when such things occur seems unbearable. But if we could peer though that dark glass that Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians and see things as they really are we would know that life does not begin and end—it continues forever. The form and flesh we wear as humans grows, changes and eventually fades away. Science tells us this. But that is not who we are. We all know that our bodies are nothing more than temporary containers we inhabit for this part of the journey. If we were capable of knowing and believing what lies ahead, and from where we came, we would feel quite differently about life and death, but we do not know or believe, and this knowledge is not easily come by.

You might ask why God does not let us in on this crucial bit of information? Consider this: how would we live our lives if we knew—beyond any doubt, that this life was not the beginning and end of our existence?

If you ponder this question for a while you may come to a conclusion similar to my own. Few of us would lead our lives the same way, if we thought we were just passing through. In our human form, we are simply not built to handle such knowledge. It is only later that we are able to understand. If we come to God, by whatever name we know him, we will have the experience of learning that truth and it will change everything. Only then will we know and understand the great expectation.


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