She gave birth to her firstborn . . . and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn. – Luke 2:7 (NIV)
My husband’s a hard worker, so I try to ease the workload around the house when I can. Sometimes, though, my efforts make more work than if I’d just let him do the job in the first place.
Wanting to surprise him, one year I decorated the front deck with pine garland and white Christmas lights. That was the first year we had a deck to decorate, and the coffers had taken a hit with building front and back decks that summer and re-roofing the house. So the least expensive garland and light string I could find, I got.
I wanted him to come home from work and “ooh” and “ahh” over how it looked or at least show appreciation. Instead he said nothing. When my husband says nothing in a situation like this, I assume he doesn’t like it and he doesn’t want to say anything because it’ll just get him in trouble. Which it did. Because I squeezed the truth out of him—so I really shouldn’t have been mad, right?
After a couple of days, I broached the subject, and we discussed how the front deck decorations could be improved. I do admit, he’s a much better decorator than I am. He has both the eye and the touch. My decorating philosophy is the same as my baking philosophy: throw it together and hope it turns out right.
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” he told me. “It’s just not what I expected.”
Expectations—that’s what this was all about, not who was right and who was wrong. I expected him to lavish praise on my efforts and was disappointed when he didn’t. He expected thicker boughs, something that stood out more, and was disappointed when the reality didn’t match the vision. Once we talked about it, the air cleared.
Expectations weren’t met when Jesus came, either. He was born not at home, but in a town 70 miles away, in a stable because the inns were full of travelers coming to pay their taxes. No family gathered around the new parents to rejoice with them, only strange shepherds and even stranger foreign dignitaries. And when He grew up, Jesus didn’t fulfill the expectations of anyone but His Heavenly Father. Even His death caused crushing disappointment for all who expected something different. But the reality was so much more than they ever could have dreamed!
Be careful of expectations. They can be good, but they can also be dangerous.
When we expect something of ourselves, our expectations can drive us to be better persons. But when we expect something of someone else, expectations can be dangerous because we’re so focused on what we expect—what we want—that we’re blind to the reality in front of us.
And sometimes, like with the birth, life, and death of Jesus, the reality is so much better than the expectation.
When things don’t turn out the way I expect, Lord, remind me that in Your hands the reality is exceedingly abundantly above all I could have asked for or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). Help me to live in such a way that I meet Your expectations of me. Amen.
Read and reflect on Luke 1:26–38.
© 2012 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.