Remember your childhood Christmas wish lists? I’d pen down my dreams with great expectations. Then Christmas comes. A football! A pocket knife! (Can you tell I was a tomboy?) But…no pet lizard? Bummer.
As a kid, we can move on pretty quickly from disappointment, but, as a grown-up, disappointment can cause serious problems.
“No matter their source, disappointments keep us in a prison of our own making,” says author Carol Kent in Between a Rock and a Grace Place.
My friend Victoria used the following flow chart, based on Kent’s study, to explain the cycle of unmet expectations:
Expectations à disappointment à longing for change à emotional reaction
I’m expecting a quiet evening at home. Something comes up. I wish that person wouldn’t have asked me to do this. I start simmering, the simmer turns to a boil, and suddenly I’m an emotional train wreck! How can I experience the freedom of not letting unmet expectations and disappointments lock me into a bad mood?
Carol Kent defines liberty of heart in this way: finding purpose and meaning in the place I’m in right now while anticipating a surprise from God. We must be content with where God has placed us while also staying hopeful that “the best part of the story unfolds in the next scene (the one we haven’t lived yet).”
How is it possible to hold on to both contentment and anticipation, especially when I’m living with unfulfilled desires?
Simple, daily obedience. I listen to God and do what He says. “He wakes me up in the morning, wakes me up, opens my ears to listen as one ready to take orders.” Isaiah 50:4 (MSG) In that relationship, I can recognize He has brought me to where I am and be satisfied there, and I can also look forward to where He is taking me.
Right now, I’m living with the unmet expectation that I’d be a mom. I’ve ridden the monthly roller coaster of high hopes and bitter disappointment. A huge step forward came with the freeing news that I didn’t have to have kids to have a fulfilling life; there’s purpose and meaning where God has placed me today. But I need to stay hopeful (the harder part, for me) and anticipate that God just might surprise me.
As we move into the New Year, even if we didn’t get the pet lizard for Christmas, let’s not get stuck in the disappointment cycle. Instead, waking up every morning and being ready to take orders, let’s live content with where God has us today. And, be ready! 2018 just might have some incredible surprises in store.