Great Expectations

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”Hebrews13:8(NASB)

Phil and I watched the series, Great Expectations over the holidays. I read the Charles Dicken’s classic in high school. Creepy with ghostly characters and a weird colorless backdrop it ran true to the book, and the hope of great expectations corresponded with ushering in a New Year.

Apparently expectations can get us into a bundle of issues.

Both secular and Christian books and seminars glut the market with advice on how to recognize, manage, and cope with expectations.

My diet. My goals. My relationships. My marriage. My children. My house (and that crazy bedroom that better get done this year), my job, my writing, my success, my growth…my…my…my.

Aspirations and objectives are part of growth. They stretch us, keep us grounded, and help us focus. But they can also be self serving. Resolutions which offer hope, are notorious for disappointing. And expectations are like slippery eels, often not recognized until they are unmet.

I grew up in a huge old farmhouse. I loved it. I loved the open oak staircase that made its gracious entry into the dining room. I loved the white clapboard exterior. But what intrigued me and drew me over and over by its mystery was the junk room. Oh yes. We had a junk room. An entire room dedicated to junk. I’m not sure how normal that is, but nevertheless, I can almost hear sighs of pure desire. What I wouldn’t give for one of those today.

“Where do I put that old chair?”

“Just stick it in the junk room for now.”

“The new clock works great. Should I throw the old one?”

“Na, we might use it someday, stash it away in the junk room.”

Heaven. Almost.

With seven bedrooms, it was a spare room where stuff that didn’t have an immediate designation got stashed. As a child, I delighted in poking around its treasures. It was full of history and imagination. Wall maps, from the one room school house my mom once taught in, hung disjointed from a long metal case. I often traced my finger around the borders of Russia, Europe, or Africa, picturing life in far away places. Outdated nightstands and dressers piled into a corner, faded pictures dotted the walls, lamps with shades askew, fedoras, and boxes of clothing waited to be wanted.

Wouldn’t it be great to fall asleep in the old year and wake up in the new, with all the inner bad discarded, put inside some past-person, former-me, junk room? I wish I could dump comparison, jealousy, anger and impatience into the past year and shut the door. I could shed mind-reels of unspoken conversations, irritations, complaints, and the bitter taste of offense. I’d pile layers of unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions on top of the broken dresser of my failed attempts, wipe my hands and walk away with great expectations of tomorrow.

But, after the boom, bang, and the excitement of New Year’s Eve, January begins, and the junk makes it’s way back into the living room.  

I wonder, is that how Paul felt when he wrote Romans 7? Did he get caught up in the cycle of trying to be better and falling flat on his face again?

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom. 7:15 ESV)

I’ve been contemplating what goals should guide this New Year.  Ahead beckons a fresh start, clean unwritten pages, and anticipations like adventures to be unfolded. Yet, I don’t want my self-improvement-bent to turn my face away from what cannot fail. Voices chatter confusion about who I should be and how I can get there, but there is a quiet voice, decipherable only with the Word before me, a posture of surrender, and my eyes raised high.

“But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” Psalm 86:15 (NASB)

Murky futures can be faced with solid assurance, because although I may sputter and fall short of well-laid plans and good intentions, I need never doubt that Another cannot. For He cannot be less than He is.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5(ESV).

The higher my focus, the Greater the Expectations.