Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Disappointment of a Failed Expectation

I have noticed in myself and others a common malady that shows up at holidays and big events.  Let's call this malady The Failed Expectation.

This is how it goes:  you are really looking forward to time off or vacation or a holiday with all its special activities, etc. - but then when it actually comes, you feel unsatisfied, maybe disappointed, perhaps even frustrated or angry.  Why does this happen?  What is going on here?  I have found in myself and a few others that have discussed this that when we build high expectations of something within us there is always the danger of the balloon popping and all our hopeful fantasies deflating into perceived failure.  Perhaps this part of  the meaning of Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.  

 Why does this happen?  Well, when this happens, we are DENYING a few things:

1.  We are denying the reality of REALITY.

The reality is that things are not going to go exactly how you want them to go.  People are not going to say and act just as you want them to.  As my children grow older, I am realizing more and more that a certain event that I plan is subject to the wills of older children becoming adults.  I cannot just expect that things will run in the totally controlled manner that they did when the kids were little children totally subject to the whims of the parents.

You expect to go to the family reunion and interact with people a certain way, and when that turns sour - you are deflated and perhaps angry because you did not factor in the variables that the reality of life is always changing and never dependable.  You throw that party and want everything to go perfectly - but people fail to show up, your punch turns out wrong, your water heater goes out, and your dog decides to have stomach issues.  The reality of life is that things are not dependable.

This year, I of course had this perfect Christmas scene in mind with our oldest daughter Abbie home from college.  Christmas day has such high expectations in our minds of "the most wonderful time of the year."  Well, this year we had a few surprises that challenged that.  Our Christmas lights won't stay on outside and keep throwing a breaker.  Our "real" tree was full of aphids that flooded our living room and hallway with hundreds of unexpected Christmas guests.  The tree also dropped sap like the sky has dropped rain this Christmas.  Our presents were all covered with sap and aphids.  Lovely.  On top of this, there was a miscommunication about Christmas breakfast that caused Amy and I to have a "serious" talk.  Yeah - the REALITY is different than the EXPECTATION.  Don't get me wrong, it was a nice Christmas, but reality certainly showed up.

2.  We are denying the reality of our FLESH.  I won't say much about this, but just note that any move to "control everything" your way is a mark of fleshly pride.  I struggle with that.  I feel if everything goes MY WAY then everyone will be happy.  This is not true, nor is it good.

When we have these expectations in events where we are interacting with other people, then our flesh is going to butt heads with the flesh of others.  These events tend to be more "tense" than normal days because we are in strange environments and situations that we are not used to.  Our expectations are banging against the expectations of others.  The preferences of introverts and extroverts are colliding. Preferences in a thousand ways are at odds.  There will be interactions that are not the delightful situation that you imagined.

3.  We are denying the reality of God's working.  Our expectations can never factor in what God would like to do in us and through us because we don't know the mind of God.  He is working on these days of holidays, vacations, events.  Many times, that means the Lord is going to throw us a curve ball to grow us or change us and others.  He may be accomplishing something by the mishaps and disappointments that would totally surprise us if we could know them.  So, we need to trust Him when things don't go as we planned.

4.  We are denying the fact that failed expectations are the breeding ground for great memories.  In his video series Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships, Dr. Gary Smalley explains how unexpected calamities in a family or a group can turn out to bond us and bring some of the most joyful memories in years ahead.  He talks about a camping weekend gone wrong and how it brought his family together in an unexpected way.

You know, we will forever talk about the "aphid Christmas with all the sap" in our family.  It will be a humorous memory in days ahead that will bond our family. (no sappy pun intended).  The calamities of a failed expectation certainly can be sorrowful, but some can actually be productive in your life.  If everything went as expected, then life would be a pretty boring place.

So, I guess I would just encourage you in this conversation with a few applications:  1.  Don't build your mind up for some great thing that will likely not happen just the way you want.  2.  Realize that your fantasy involves other people's preferences and wills, and that needs to be ok with you.  3.  Realize God is at work in the curve balls.  Trust Him.  4.  Realize that you are making memories with others - laugh at the Failed Expectation when you can.  I would also add a #5.  Things probably went better than your "failed expectations" feel.  Try to reflect on the positives.

God is good to us even when everything is not going perfect.  We have what we need, we get to be with great family and friends, Jesus is our Savior and King.  That's enough, life doesn't have to be our fantasy of "perfect".

1 comment:

  1. It helps me to know that a Pastor's family can/will/does experience the same challenges as our family can/will/does! Reading this keeps it real so I can continue to keep trying and, when I fail, know I am not alone. Thank you for being honest!