Expectations.

(Photo taken at Our Little Roses home in Honduras.)

(Photo taken at Church Without Walls.)

Time and again, we have been warned to avoid having expectations. Our 12-step friends often caution us: “An expectation is a resentment waiting to happen.”

The wisdom in this is indisputable. When I shift from dreaming dreams and making plans to expecting things to turn out a certain way, or expecting others to behave in a predictable manner, I am setting myself up for a world of hurt.

But recently I have come to see that a certain kind of expectation makes sense, even can be helpful. For example, I have come to recognize a certain dynamic that happens inside me. When I feel threatened or challenged or dominated in some way, there is a part of me that pushes to the fore of my psyche, that wants to draw the shades, shutter the house, turn out the lights and lie low until the “threat” passes.

This very powerful thing that happens within me is something I typically resist, something I feel ashamed about and frustrated by. When it happens, I find myself holding back at best, and shutting down altogether at worst.

But I don’t hate this thing about me anymore. And I no longer pray for it to be removed. Instead, I am taking a different tack altogether. I am coming to expect it. It will come again, and when it does, I pray for the grace to embrace this part of me as a dear and cherished friend. Thank you for stepping up to help. But you can rest now. I will invite the other parts of myself to the table – the strong, courageous, resilient parts. We will press on. No more holding back or lying low.

What a wacky, messy, wonderful adventure this thing called life is. Whatever is happening is wonderful and to be enjoyed. And as an old friend is fond of saying: “If you can’t enjoy what’s happening, then enjoy not enjoying it.”

What is the celebration of the Epiphany, if it is not a reminder that Christ is present in all we experience. We have every reason to live a life of expectation – of expectancy, as my spiritual director likes to say — and to watch and wonder as gifts arrive in the most unexpected forms and places.

About Mother Beth Tjoflat

Episcopal priest, urban contemplative, playwright, lover of hounds, American of Chilean-Norwegian-Moravian descent. Interests include transformational ministry with the forgotten and marginalized; church planting and congregational development; 12-step spirituality; Hispanic ministry; radical hospitality, and spending time with dear friends.
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