Newborns, Expectancy and Advent

Yesterday I had the privilege of holding a friend’s newborn baby. He was a mere 13 hours old and I have to say the sheer breath of calm and joy he ushered in was beautiful. To see friends becoming parents, and the elation and sereneness on the faces of my friend as she looked at him, as her husband held him, was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. (Thank you Abby and Tom for allowing me to witness that and hold the fantastic Fitz)

All week there’s been a build up of expectation, even as another friend awaits the arrival of her son whose holding out a bit on them a week after his expected arrival. It occurred to me the same feeling was overcoming me as well heading into Advent season. This expectation of the glory of the Lord. The celebration and elation of the birth of Christ 2,000+ years ago even now.

In doing some digging into expectancy, and what that word looks like (hi word nerd over here) in the Bible, it is so strongly correlated to hope throughout the Hebrew. They are linked and intertwined, and then I found this beautiful imagery of expectation. It is as one with an outstretched neck.

I don’t know about y’all but I LOVE THAT. Expectation is us stretching out to look, to see. It took me back to the days of going to parades in my hometown, and leaning out my head to see what was coming, to see if Santa was near at the Christmas parade, or the band was marching next in our 4th of July parade. You have to put yourself into it and truly feel the expectation in your body.

The expectation doesn’t come without a wait. It doesn’t come without some pangs of hurt, loss, strife, and suffering. Expectancy can be long and drawn out, but it’s still lingers. Hope builds in expectancy, confidence in the thing believed to be on the way. And just as my friends are now living out the fulfilled expectation of new life, so do we. The expectation of this season of Advent brings new life in joy, peace, hope. It ushers in the new life of Christ with us. In flesh now appearing. It brings confident expectation of new life not found in ourselves, but in Him.

All may be calm, it may be quiet as we wait in expectation. But may we lean out our necks to see the fulfillment of our expectation this Advent season in Christ’s presence with us.

Expectations, Fear and Obedience

Last week I shared about some disobedience I had been living in for the last bit. I will admit the struggle is very real in living an obedient life in Christ. To listen diligently for His voice, the Spirit’s prompting and digging daily into God’s Word to guide us. The tensions that therein lie against the world, our desires, and the pull of culture can almost be too much (and sometimes are) for this soul.

Over the course of the last two years I have faced some pulls I wasn’t expecting, coincide that with losing my job unexpectedly and launching into a whole new sphere of work has led to some self-assessment and a whole lot of self-pity. Most of the struggle has been in the realm of pride though if I’m honest. I like to list off (to myself and God mainly) that I have this list of accomplishments, these degrees, and yet here He’s put me, in this situation. I remind Him that’s He’s called me to more, all the while not really confessing my pride and willingness to be obedient in the wait, in the work I now feel led to fully.

I realized so very recently that I have been lining myself up with the world’s pulls of life, the world’s expectations of myself and my list of “to-dones” instead of falling flat on my face in repentance before God. I have pursued after jobs, locations that I felt I should be pursuing rather than what I knew without a shred of doubt He was leading me towards.

In all honesty, I wasn’t being brave in the face of false expectations.

I wasn’t being courageous to live in the wait He wants me in currently.

I am not being obedient to the fullness of life He has for me by filling my time with distraction of expectations and the need for approval.

When I turned the pages of a book in the early morning hours of the day I saw these words call out, God’s way of saying, “I’m talking to you right here, in this moment.What are you going to do with it?”

“There comes a moment for each of us wherein we must decide-will we be brave, or will we remain enslaved to fear? Will we be brave enough to confess? Will we be brave enough to walk into God’s calling?”

The calling terrifies me…because I am thinking it’s about me and my strength (and very present lack thereof). But when I bravely confess that I have relied too much on the world’s expectations and my own willingness I step into the area of obedience. I step out of my own lies and those that I have believed the world is telling me to see that I have to choose this for myself and not for the approval of others, or for anything short of God’s glory in obedience.

I am still walking in this tension of choosing bravery in the face of the world’s expectations of me and obedience to the calling He has given me. It means I have to choose trust in every single moment, in every single step even when I don’t know what that looks like or how long I will have to wait.

Fear will always tell me to not make a decision, it will always remind me of what others would think or say. But bravery in obedience and choice means my faith is bigger than my fears, my God is bigger than the world’s reminders of failure or expectations. Because I am already approved, already loved, and called to obedience in a sovereign God Who doesn’t leave me to figure this out alone but to have seasons of wait, rest, grief and freedom in Him.

Here’s to shirking off the fear of the world’s expectations and living fully in the freedom of bravery in Christ, knowing He went first so we wouldn’t have to be enslaved any more to it all.

The quote above is from Rebekah Lyons’ new book out this Tuesday, You are Free (pg. 198) Pick it up at your local LifeWay Christian Stores. 

Unmet Expectations

Back in February I wrote on quitting expectations, and over the last few weeks I have continued to have conversations about that same topic with different people. The most recent happened in the last two days with someone who is having a rough season of life.

When you are younger, you have these dreams of where you will be at 25, 30, 40 and so on. Then as you grow into adulthood, you find those dreams tend to morph into an expectation in your heart. To be at this goal, to have this, to be in that, to have that title. For many, including myself, I think the expectation underlying it all is to have life figured out at a certain point. I laugh when people think college graduates should have themselves completely figured out, the future planned entirely, and a mate to share it with upon the day they graduate.

For some that might be a reality, but in most cases it is far from it.

Somewhere in the dialogue yesterday, as unmet expectations of life at this point unrolled themselves, I found a different thought train leaving the station of my mind. All of these dreams, that changed to expectations, ultimately became idols of my life whether I realized it or not. When I compare them to the Biblical standard of expectations, I realize just how unholy (and ultimately unworthy) they are for my life. The expectations that God says are good and true for my life look vastly different than the ones I have crafted.

  • The Expectancy of His Command-Psalm 119:131
  • The Expectancy of His Reward Awaiting Us in Heaven- Colossians 1:4-6
  • The Expectancy of Eternal Life with Him- 1 Peter 1:2-4
  • The Expectancy of His Return- 1 John 3:2-4

I have to say, my expectations look like rags compared to this. They look cheap and meaningless when compared with eternity. Are expectations bad? I don’t necessarily think so. But I do think when they are set up as idols, when they are what we look to in order to measure the goodness of our life instead of Christ, they are bastardized for our own good. We naturally gravitate to the things which will bring us comfort, that we define on our own terms. We do the same for our expectations…we want them in our plotted way, on our terms, in our timing.

God wants nothing but good for me. Sometimes that looks like wildly unmet expectations that I have held too close to for security, as a measuring stick of my life. While I am no where near where I want to be in this, in releasing every single expectation I have crafted for myself, I am seeing now that it is a work that God is doing in me to allow me to see it first, and then to tear down the strongholds they have on my life, and in relation to God.

Quitting Expectations

I am a big fan of the show New Girl. I have been since it started. I found myself a couple of weeks ago identifying all too well with Jess’s character. Her birthday had rolled around and she had, over the years, gotten outlandish expectations about what people did for her birthday. In an effort to not get hurt, she took herself to a movie alone.

I laughed, and then realized I do the exact same thing. I have expectations of people in my life…of the situations we find ourselves in together. Whether it be birthdays or meetings, I have crafted expectations for how these individuals will behave, how they will react, what they will do. All of it is based in how I think they should act, and not how they actually do. Hurt feelings, resentment, and anger then fill me.

Is this a fun thing to be admitting to you all today? Not in the least.

I am seeing the season of life that I am in, I am weighted down. I came upon this quote from Stephanie Gates the other day that hit me right where I am:

The task before you is not your problem. What’s wearing you down is your expectations.

Yowza, she’s totally right. I am wearing myself down…with my own expectations of how life should be, how others should be towards me, how I should be at this moment already. My circumstances, the people in my life weren’t wearing me down…it was me doing it.

What a revelation that is when you see the weight you pile on your own shoulders to carry, and how easily it could have been to dump it all off, if you’d only seen it sooner. So today, I quit having expectations of others that wear me down. I quit expecting a situation to play just as I see it, just in my favor. Today I quit being selfish with my expectations.

What expectation can you quit today?

Quitting Confidence

Last week I posted on quitting the resolutions. Today I wanted to briefly share this…

I quit having confidence in the flesh. It’s flawed. It fails. Most of all, it’s faulty from the fall. Why do I continue to put confidence in the flesh? Most of the time it’s in others and not even in my own flesh that I place confidence.

I put expectations, hopes, and affirmations safely in their keeping…and it’s ridiculous. We all fail. We are all imperfect. We disappoint and we stumble. Sometimes Most of the time we fall.

So today, on Thursday since it’s a good day to quit stuff. I quit having confidence in the flesh. I will boast in the confidence that is found in Christ. The stable, firm foundation. The steadfastness of HIS work, HIS character, and HIS promises. They have never failed…and they won’t start now.

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh… Philippians 3:3 

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:31 

The Awkward Single.

Last year around this time I was interested in someone…We didn’t know one another very well but had gotten coffee once to chat. Nothing too serious, no proclaiments of love or the brushing of hands over the table. Over the coming months, as I began dating someone else, I would bump into him on occasion…Nashville isn’t all that big y’all. Occasionally I would laugh at the little crush I had developed on him briefly last year, and how even in your 30s you can still get crushes.

I ran into him, after really not seeing him for about seven months, at the church I am now attending. One would have thought it would be awkward, seeing someone I had once (just a year before) been interested in. Eventhough I am single, and I believe he is too, there wasn’t awkwardness. There was friendliness that was not forced or disingenuous. It was a friendly catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in months.

It got me to thinking about how awkward it becomes when you develop this expectation with a person you have a romantic interest in that never comes to fruition. I see it play out, and have had it happen to me before, especially within the church, where the awkwardness drives the interactions, conversations, and often the individuals. It consumes their time and thoughts, and often detracts from their worship. It can mar relationships far beyond just the one there was an interest in and even push some to leave the church. Sadly over the years in ministry, and specifically being involved in singles ministries, it becomes cyclical.

Acknowledge the awkward, but don’t let it rule you. After all, you were made to be so much more than a person carrying around unmet expectations. When you love God, it becomes just a smidge easier to love others, even in the awkward, even in the strained. Don’t let an unrequited crush push you out of worshiping the God who loves you more than _________. Lay aside the expectations of finding your mate in ministry. The only expectation we should carry into church is the expectation of the presence of God with us.

The Irrationality of a List.

I still have a couple of journals from my high school/college days. I am embarrassed at some of the things I chose to write about in those journals. I laugh at moments of pure teenage angst in them, and then I cringe at the stupidity of my boy crazyness that I had for far, far too long.

photo courtesy of Glamour Magazine
photo courtesy of Glamour Magazine

Last night during the Cross Point College event I was reminded of something I had in one of my journals.  It was a list. You know, the list. I put pen to paper on all the things the man I would marry had to have (or not have) in order for me to take him seriously. It ranged from “work hands” to never being married to taller than me with four inch heels on. I was all over the board, and sadly I have to admit, the list was somewhere around 50 points. I was a dreamer back in those days it seems. For years I clung to that list of expectations and would not budge for anything on them. They were my non-negotiables.

Unfortunately, those non-negotiables were also far too ridiculous. At 31 I look back at that list and see about three things on there I still hold to for any man that I date (or consider dating). But I do realize that those three are musts for me. They don’t have to look a certain way but they are a must. Far too often many of us don’t see true blessings of companionship because we are too quick to find the faults or mentally run down our lists. I’d be the first to admit that, and that I was skeptical for many years of my 20s because a guy didn’t fit the mold I had selfishly built for him.

While musts in any relationship are there for obvious reasons,  for me I finally have let go of the expectations associated with what I believe they should look like in that person. Here’s what I mean:  He’s a Christian? Then he should be quoting Spurgeon and talking theology after each sermon. No, reality is that we are all at different points in our faith journey. If I wait for the man who is spiritually mature at the point I desire, then it will be vastly difficult to find that. Instead I understand the reality of faith and that it’s varied among believers. I have to be open to where God is placing me in that timeline, as well as where I am at on my own faith journey.

Let’s be honest about what is a non-negotiable in our partners, but burn the list. If truth be told, and we all had these lists that we held to with such strict regard, none of us would be married or happy. We’d all be criticizing one another for how we don’t meet expectations rather than loving one another for who we truly are. Relationships are seeing people as people…we’re not perfect, we need grace, but most of all we need the other person to not have that list either.