15 Sep Gratitude: The Antidote to Expectations
Expectations are killing me.
I know that probably sounds a little melodramatic, but I’m not sure that it is. My most recent run-in with lethal expectations started with a really challenging weekend. On Saturday I officiated at a memorial service that involved a tragic and untimely death. Sunday held all the normal Sunday activities but also included a meeting of the church’s Elders, which had been postponed due to the special service the day before. By the time I finally got home Sunday afternoon, I was “toast”—physically, emotionally and spiritually drained.
I figured Monday would be a recovery day, and I was looking forward to sleeping in, taking a long walk, and generally “vegging.” But, all of that blew up at 11:22 p.m. Sunday night when my son woke me up from a dead sleep because water was steadily dripping from the ceiling above the washing machine. And, more water was discovered under the kitchen sink. Water dripping from the ceiling—this can’t be good, I thought.
I finally got back to bed but, not surprisingly, didn’t wake up Monday morning feeling at all rested, due to the interrupted sleep and the midnight clean-up operation. Worse still, my “recovery day” turned out to be anything but. Numerous phone calls to multiple repair services, lots of waiting and $800 later, the problem was fixed, but it took ALL DAY. My day of rest, serenity and self-care was aborted and instead I got: a new garbage disposal. Ugh. Definitely not a good trade-off, in my book.
I was frustrated and angry at this unexpected and unwelcome turn of events and was throwing myself a right good pity party when it hit me—the real problem wasn’t the leaking water or the need for a new garbage disposal; it was my expectations. I was angry because what I wanted, needed and thought I “deserved” had been thwarted. My day hadn’t gone like I thought it “should,” and that threw me into a fit of pique. I knew I was being ridiculous, but in my fatigue and grief, logic was struggling to win the day.
Over a decade ago I was introduced to the writings of author Robert Wicks. In one of his books Dr. Wicks wrote of “receiving the day.” It is a phrase that has stayed with me and become core to my times of prayer and self-reflection. Receiving the day means that I receive each day as it is, not as I want it to be or think it should be. It reminds me that I am not in control of today or any of my days, and therefore, my expectations of what should or should not happen are foolish at best. It prompts me to place myself and my day in God’s hands, to embrace whatever the day holds, and to trust that God’s grace will be sufficient to see me through the demands and needs that arise. “Receive the day” has become something of a mantra that I recite to keep myself grounded in the truth of God’s presence and God’s ever-sufficient strength and peace, regardless of the circumstances I’m dealing with.
I’ve also discovered that gratitude is an important antidote to expectations. When I really stop and examine myself, I realize that I have lots of expectations—of myself, of God, of events, of other people, of how life should work. It’s absurd, really, and even though I know that, I so easily fall back into the expectation habit. I counteract this not only by remembering to “receive the day” but also by expressing my gratitude for the many, many blessings I enjoy each day—all of which are gifts from God which I do not deserve. When I start naming and thanking God for all the good things in my life, it is a lot harder to stay in a snit over a garbage disposal—or even over a day that runs off the rails.
It is tempting to excuse my “expectation-itis” as no big deal—it’s a pretty human experience, after all. But, the anger and frustration I felt were no small thing. My misguided expectations could literally shorten my life with elevated blood pressure or ulcers and the like, and at the very least I spent a day of my life upset over nothing worth worrying about. It was not a good choice, and today I repented of my self-absorption which is what my expectations were rooted in. And, I’m endeavoring to receive the day with grace and acceptance. I hope you will, too.
Yours for the Kingdom,