Reflections: Expectations that Shape the Heart

Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina

“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” – Matthew 11:3

John, the prophet who announced the coming Messiah, questioned his mission as he sat despondent in jail awaiting execution. Even seeing God in human form, John had to fight with disappointment and disbelief when Jesus wasn’t like he had expected.

People have incomplete perceptions of God and each other, and plenty of expectations about them. Anticipating many possibilities of a new acquaintance or a new relationship, familiarity will expose us to events that will shape our hearts. Depending on the grace in our perspective, we can take offense or retain “good soil” in our hearts. Some propagate the dangerous message that having no expectations is the easiest way out of relationship troubles, which is true albeit it will set you up for a void connection. No trouble, but no depth, either. A garden flourishes if the soil is first tilled.

More or less, we receive what we perceive. Expectations don’t necessarily kill relationship, but a certain kind of expectation can. Expecting my friend to fulfill me in a certain way may blind me to the many ways he is offering me things that could fulfil. But if I am watchful for his gestures that could potentially bless me, I will grasp them. What we focus on, we magnify.

Unvoiced expectations can damage a relationship. A partner’s expectation for the other to speak or act in a certain way can yield resentment unless tempered by grace. Staying silent about expectations to avoid an awkward moment might end up in greater agonies of misunderstanding and hope deferred, which makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).

Jesus knew about pouring into people without expecting to receive the same back. Though countless turned away, many of Jesus’ true friends paid ultimately for their love and commitment to him. 1 Corinthians 13 demonstrates how God’s love in us does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking. God’s love is not given in increments relative to how obedient or loving we are in return. The love God gives is not fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the wrongs done to it. Love never fails.

Scripture taken from the NIV and the Amplified Bible.

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