Living with Expectancy, not Expectations
“Shhh! This is the good part!”
Ever noticed how, when we’re watching a movie, the point where the man’s about to lose the love of his life, the bad guy’s about to prevail, or the meteor’s about to crash into earth, we lean in?
Ever noticed how, when that same kind of thing happens in our own lives—when we’re the ones who lost the love or were defeated by a bad guy or found ourselves in the path of a (metaphorical, I hope) meteor, we do just the opposite? We shrink away.
Interesting how much more fun drama is when it’s happening to somebody else.
I had the immense pleasure of attending a local conference recently where Allen Arnold spoke on creating with God. He made the point that when life starts to get really interesting (difficult, dramatic, frustrating—fill in the blank) we ought to lean in. He had some great suggestions on how to do that, but one I remember very well had to do with the concept of expectations vs. expectancy.
Expectations arise when we look forward to an event and presume to know how that event will unfold. For instance, a parent can have expectations about a coming vacation with toddlers—and will probably be disappointed. A salesman can have expectations about a sales pitch and will often be crushed. A writer can have expectations about book sales, and often reality will look very different.
I recently suffered a reality that was far from what I’d expected. I sent my book off to my agent and waited eagerly for his response, knowing it would be something like: “I love it!” or “It’s perfect!” When instead he responded with some suggestions to make the story better, some gentle comments about my books in general, it sent me into a tailspin. What am I doing? I can’t write. I should just get a job at the 7-Eleven. (I’ve been threatening that for years. I’m sure the manager at the local 7-Eleven, if he knew, would start praying for success in my writing.) It took me a few hours to get past that reaction. Okay, it took me a few days. Maybe two weeks—but I’ll admit to no more. But now, I look at that book, and I feel differently. Now, I’m focusing not on the problem, but on God. Now my prayer is, Lord, what are you going to do with this?
I still don’t have a solution. But I remember that I do have this awesome, wonderful God who can and will guide me as I work through it.
If we as believers will focus on having an attitude of expectancy instead of rigid expectations, we will be so much happier. Expectancy allows the parent to think, “I don’t know what this vacation is going to look like, but we’ll be together, so we’ll make it fun.” Expectancy encourages the salesman to think, “I don’t know how this presentation will go, but I believe God will provide for me and my family this month.” Expectancy enables a writer to think, “I have no idea how my book will sell, but I believe God led me to write it for a reason, and I can’t wait to see what he does with it.”
Let’s face it, most of the time when we’re leaning in during a movie, it’s because we don’t know how the movie’s going to end. When we can’t put the book down, no matter how sleepy and scratchy our eyes are, it’s because we have no idea what’s going to happen, but we trust the author to make it good. It’s a spirit of expectancy.
Yet, in our own lives, when those frightening moments come, we want to avoid them all together. Why? Because we planned for X, and we got purple. We knew what to do with X. Purple—not so much.
But what if, instead of shrinking away from those moments, we faced them with expectancy. What if, instead of railing against God in frustration, demanding X—as if he’d owed us X, we looked up and said, “Wow. Purple. I didn’t see that coming. I can’t wait to see how you’re going to get us out of this one.”
It’s the difference between hanging onto solid, unattainable, yet completely anticipated results and hanging onto the attitude that, whatever happens, God’s got it.
If you can trust the author of a novel or the screenwriter of a movie to give you a satisfying ending to a fictional tale, how much more can you trust the Author of all the world’s stories to work out yours? To work it out for your good and the good of those you love.
He can do that. He’s that good.
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April, and its prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.
Chef and popular blogger Amanda Johnson hopes publishing her memoir will provide healing and justice. Her estranged husband, contractor and veteran soldier Mark Johnson, tries to talk her out of it, fearing the psychiatrist who seduced her when she was a teen might return to silence her.
But Amanda doesn’t need advice, certainly not from her judgmental soon-to-be ex-husband. Her overconfidence makes her vulnerable when she travels out of town and runs into the abuser from her past. A kind stranger comes to her rescue and offers her protection.
Now Mark must safeguard his wife both from the fiend who threatens her life and from the stranger who threatens their marriage.
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