You know that Christmas gift you thought would be a unicorn that instead turns out to be a second hand vacuum cleaner, or that book you thought would be so cool and instead was something you could have written yourself….when you were four years old….
Or more seriously, that job you thought you’d retire from that gave you a pink slip yesterday (and not the kind that goes under your now-threadbare skirt), or that baby you long for so much and the pregnancy test that came back negative…again….or the friend/spouse/family member you thought would always have your back and who now barely speaks to you.
So many things in life are based around what we expect. And it seems that we are often wrong. So, what’s the point? Should we just not expect anything and live with the lowest standards possible, in order to not get hurt?
Expectations are, at their core, hope. Hope is listed in II Corinthians 13 as one of the three greatest things in existence, and is also listed elsewhere as a byproduct of living by God’s Spirit and as He desires. So, it goes to reason, that hope is a wonderful thing. It heals wounds by the mere possibility of it being possible; it gives joy and light in a dark place by the mere suggestion of its existence. Hope assists in being faithful to another; in persevering through a tough situation; in giving a task or life meaning. Hope is a strong cord at the core of all heartbeats- the expectation of another heartbeat.
All of which sound like really good things. So why are expectations so often, well, wrong? Are we putting our hope in the wrong thing? Or are we just assuming something, instead of expecting it? Is there a difference?
Actually, there is. Expectation is something that you want to happen, but that you aren’t sure will happen. The dictionary defines it as: eager anticipation; belief about (or mental picture of) the future; wishing with full confidence of fulfillment; the feeling that something is about to happen.
Assumption, meanwhile, is something that you think will happen, and are taking for granted that it will, or accepting it as truth without proof. Assumption is, at its core, entitlement, or possibly pride. It hurts relationships by putting itself first; it brings the darkness of self-absorption to an otherwise light situation; it takes all the meaning in life and makes it about only the self. Not a really good thing.
So, I will be the first to admit, that what I so often think I am expecting, I am actually assuming. For example, that pregnancy test negative would hurt a lot less if I looked at it as the anticipation of something that will happen, and not getting consumed by the idea that it has to happen NOW, and assuming that I know best how it should be.
It boils down to focus and control. Who you are focusing on is who has control of your life, and who has the control shapes whether you eagerly expect something or selfishly assume it. I know for myself, I definitely want my focus and control to be with God, because I definitely don’t want to carry around the burden of trying to make my life shape what I think it should. UGH! TOO MUCH WORK!! He’s way better at that than I am, and He sees the whole picture. And I know that He will take care of me, and does all the time.
This is both an expectation and a bit of an assumption….
But that’s a whole other topic….