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Expectations are emotionally charged beliefs regarding future outcomes. Assumptions and presumptions propel us forward with assurance, optimism, and hope. That is until….
Last week I had a conversation with a fellow DALMAC ride to the bridge cyclist who was similar in age. He was mentioning his emotional struggle as his career was coming to the finish line. He said, “I thought I would end up on the top, successfully ending, making a difference. But the reality is that’s not where I am and it is confusing. Things are not working out as I expected. What is God doing?”
Do you resonate with his confusion?
From the start of our journey towards adulthood, we are programmed with a simple formula of “If-then.” Our educational system is simple: memorize facts, data, and practice, pass tests, move to the next level or grade. The guarantee of advancement is always the same. Successful completion is normative for the super majority. Work hard and you are rewarded by advancement with better grades. Beyond High School, the matrix remains the same, course after course matriculates into success. Seth Godin writes, “After you repeat these steps obediently for more than ten years, there will be a placement office, where there will certainly be a job ready for you, with fixed hours and a career path.” The promise is always the same, a better outcome for tomorrow. We are trained for certainty.
Until opps…cultural reality clashes with perceived reality.
I wonder how the Apostle Paul felt in his Roman imprisonment. We often tend to read his journeys and ministry like a movie, time condensed with constant adventure and action. Yet, in reality, there were more ordinary days and probably days of struggle sitting on the bench in house arrest as others experienced the thrill of Kingdom building. Sidelined, passed over, the best days for now in the past and time running out, he sulkily sat out his tethered life. Right? Wrong.
Not at all, without his constrained time we might not have had a good portion of the New Testament. He didn’t allow his deflated expectations to limit his impact. His purpose never changed, even though the circumstances around him limited perceived opportunities. Resiliency and the ability to remain confident, steadfast and hopeful, mark his letters (prison epistles) of instruction and encouragement. His resume’ was not his identity. Nor achievements the standards of personal evaluation. Paul maintained a totally different perspective. I think his philosophy is best summarized in his benediction at the end of his Romans Epistle.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13 (ESV)
Why? As life’s challenges pressed upon him, he didn’t allow his focus to narrow into self-ism. Like a camera that needs the aperture to expand in darkened situations to allow more light, Paul continued to look to the light of God’s presence, promises, and purposes. Continually yielding to God’s sovereignty and the Gospel, his overall concern was for God’s glory and not his own (Philippians 1:18).
I imagine it was never comfortable, but like the Apostle himself states in the next verses,
Yes, I will rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
Seasons of life come and go (Ecclesiastes 1, 1 Timothy 4:2). The constant is the One who controls the seasons and the harvest. May we rest in God’s sovereignty and His delight in us as His children in the New Covenant.
Looking forward to a new fall season!!!!
Grace, fr joe