letting go and hanging on

Last night I celebrated the end of 2009 with my two, wonderful sisters, all dressed up and out for a night on the town. So it seems quite appropriate that I welcomed the beginning of 2010 with a lazy morning in my uggs, all curled up on the couch with absolutely no plans for the afternoon.

I am convinced that one of the reasons this time of year with all of its’ fancy festivities and holiday traditions is so hard for many people is because it comes with a lot of expectations.

Sometimes there are expectations that I call the “keep it the way it is” expectation. These are the desires to keep things the way they are simply because this is the way it’s always been. These are the people who hang on to the tradition and the routine just because. It’s seems a bit ironic, but expecting things to stay the same, the way they’ve always been, is still an expectation.

And then there are the other kind of expectations, the kinds that hope and imagine what it could be like it if only…(fill in the blank). I call these the “wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-it-could-be-like-this” kind of expectations. These are the people (ahem, yes me) who constantly are on the lookout for how to make things better or improved. These are the expectations that long for something new, something different.

But regardless of which camp you fall in, the reality is when there are expectations, there are also disappointments. Expectations lock you into a stand still and don’t leave much space for change or flexibility or…surprises.

I have been thinking a lot about expectations lately. I have always been one of those people that holds high expectations for myself, my job, my family and basically, for everything else in life. But often these expectations leave me just a tad bit disappointed and discouraged because nothing seems to quite measures up to my expectations, even myself. I honestly think sometimes it’s easier to go through life without having any expectations— and then anything that happens is better than you expected!

But I know it’s not quite that simple. At least not for me.

A friend of mine gave me this passage a few weeks ago. It’s an excerpt from Helen Cepero’s book Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. She describes the tension and limitations with expectations far better than I can:

“Understanding the difference between hope and expectation is critical if we are to allow our future to be shaped by God. Hope longs for good but is able to be flexible about how that good might appear. Expectation grasps at solutions and becomes easily attached to outcomes. When we are hopeful, our imagination and creativity flourish. But when we are locked into expectations, it is easy to turn our pictures of the possible future into an idol.”

“Expectations assume that everything will turn out as predicted…but sometimes our expectations must die in order for us to live in hope. When our expectations are dashed our prayer then needs to look toward the God who is not only with us but also is in front of us, forming a future that we cannot yet imagine happening out of our own effort”

I have started to ponder what expectations in my own life need to die in order for me to live in hope. It’s a humbling process, but one that I want to embark on during 2010.

This is my prayer for the year:

Lord, in my pride and insecurity I often take matters into my own hands. I try to create and build my future by my own effort, littered with my own expectations. I can become so attached to specific outcomes that I miss your mysterious presence walking with me in the process. I want my expectations to die, so I can live in hope.

May you too live in hope during the coming year.

Happy New Year!

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