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Yet, since nothing that is could exist without You, You must in some way be in all that is..." Augustine, Confessions
Unmet expectations. Expectations v. reality.
Some things are just never exactly what they seem. Maybe most things. But if I'm not careful, when things don't turn out how I expected them to, it can lead me down a deep path of cynicism, isolation, and ultimately away from the Lord.
Here's the thing. A few weeks ago, I had something lined up that I was excited about. Like super excited. There were plans set, excitement building, dreams daydreamed about. It could have been fun and good.
And then, it didn't happen.
My expectations were met with a very different reality. And all the excitement went away.
Instead I was left with questions and wonder (not the good kind) and more questions. I could have easily shut the door to my room, turned off the lights, shut down my phone, and queued up Netflix. And if this had happened maybe even just six months ago, or a year? I totally would have. I would have fully embraced the cynical, unbelieving side that I daily have to surrender to the Lord. I would have welcomed that darkness back into my space, wallowing as I further isolated myself.
Grief is to be felt. It's something that, in my opinion, we do not do well in our culture. Everything in our culture tells us to shut our emotions down, "think of the better things", and to get over it. Be strong, don't show weakness by showing emotion. Don't be sad! Turn that frown, upside down!
Grief can be so powerful. Grief can lead us into a deeper wilderness, yes. But if entered into well, we will see Jesus there. Grief is a place of remembering what was, but also of what wasn't. Those lost dreams, those unmet expectations. That reality that you never thought would be your reality. It's okay to grieve it. We should go there, carefully, not push it away.
I'm a firm believer that the desert places of your life, where it looks like nothing can bloom, where nothing can live again? I'm a firm believer that Jesus meets us there and that our lives can be better because of those desert places.
And here's the thing, we can try and avoid the desert places as much as we want to - but it's never going to work. There is nothing you can do to protect yourself that much.
The desert, the pain, the wilderness, the loss, the unmet expectations? It's all inevitable.
We are told that in this world we will have trouble - we will. It's a promise that we will have trouble. So why run from it? Why? Because of what Jesus said after that declaration.
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!" John 16:33
There is a promise of trouble, but also a proclamation of triumph.
The world has been overcome. Not by trouble, not by grief, not by unmet expectations.
But by Jesus. The son of God. And because He has overcome the world, and ultimately death, we can know that we will not be overcome by our troubles or our grief or our seemingly ever occurring unmet expectations. And if we know we will not be overcome, why do we avoid it?
Maybe, just maybe, there is something waiting for us in the desert. I know there is Someone. Because He has met me in my desert places.
Jesus has met me in the midst of every unmet expectation. He has met me when I'm afraid, when I'm unsure, when I'm unhappy, when I'm grieving. He has been there, making a way.
Throughout our lives, we will all grieve different things. Hopes that never come to be, the passing of loved ones, sudden divorce, a diagnosis.
We will all grieve for different lengths of time. There is no set time period of grief. I think about the scene in Hope Floats, when Birdee and her daughter, Bernice, are driving away from their home and Bernice is leaned over the seat looking back at the house. Birdee reaches over and turns Bernice around in the seat. And then we see Birdee glance into her side mirror, back at the house.
We may be tempted to pull people out of grief, but I think that's the opposite approach to what we should be doing. Just as Jesus met people in their grief, as He meets us in ours, I think we should meet people in theirs. And it may be entering into a lot - sadness, anger, remorse. But entering into that with someone, letting them be as they need to be without rushing it, and not leaving? That is love. it is seeing and knowing someone.
It's what I experienced those few weeks ago when I was met with unmet expectations. I didn't close the door, but instead I walked out it, to people I trusted and let them see me. They didn't push, they didn't try to stop me, they just let me be me in the desert of unmet expectations.
Slowly, I came to realize that the Lord was indeed in that place, because He reminded me that it wouldn't last as long as my hope and belief was in Him.
Grief will come, but it won't last. Unmet expectations will come, but they won't last. Troubles will come, but they won't last.
Remember the proclamation of triumph.
Remember Jesus' victory.
Just as Augustine's quote at the beginning says, nothing exists without God, so in some way He must be in everything.
Is He in your grief?
Is He in those unmet expectations?
Can you somehow see Him in the trouble, remembering that He has triumphed over everything?
Seek Him there in those places and you will find Him.
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