Monday, June 23, 2014

The Expectation Response

"To anticipate" or "to expect"; both involve looking forward to something, according to

In my post last week, Pins and Needles ... and the Waiting Thing, I touched on the subject of expectations. Expectations, in and of themselves, are not inherently bad; it's the attitude with which we hold them that can get us into trouble.

When I saw the picture of the little tot above, clearly anticipating the arrival of a Christmas visitor, it made me smile. Certainly, that little child's anticipation is pure and joyful; there is expectation of blessing to be sure, but probably not such a specific expectation that it will yield sinful heart attitudes if not met exactly. Maybe little Bobby is hoping for a bicycle; but if he gets a puppy instead, he will be just as thrilled. 

I find that as we grow older, our expectations begin to define our responses. Teen-aged Bobby might expect a car for Christmas, and then pout when he gets only a computer. A computer is clearly a blessing, but it isn't the blessing Bob wanted; his expectations were unmet, and now instead of being thankful, he has a bitter heart. 

For me, personally, it isn't so much expectation of material things that can threaten to undo me. No, it is expectations of people and relationships. Sometimes I assume others think just as I do, and then when they act in a way that is unexpected, it wounds me. Once wounded, I might withhold forgiveness for an individual, expecting that they realize I am holding out for an apology. And since they think just like I do, I should have no need to explain why I'm hurt; they should already know what they have done to hurt me. And I certainly needn't verbalize my desire to receive an apology from them; they already know what they need to do. Right? 

Or suppose I have been the one to trample on a relationship. Maybe I did something that could be, in hindsight, construed insensitive; but it wouldn't have caused me that much anguish, had it been done to me, so there's really no problem. Right? Or perhaps I can't think of one single thing I have done, which I myself would find hurtful or offensive. I could come away from that situation with this attitude: "Well, that person is obviously too sensitive; that wouldn't bother me. It shouldn't bother them." 

Assumptions that others think like I do, or that they understand me ... or assumptions about others' thoughts or feelings ... these things can only end in one way. And it can be summed up in the spelling of the very word itself:

ASS - U - ME

I wish I could tell you that I learned these truths in an academic setting, but you already know that I did not, and that I cannot. Unfortunately, most of us learn these painful lessons the hard way, by being hurt, and by hurting those we love. 

Sadly, I have in the past ignored the nudge of the Holy Spirit to forgive an offense, choosing instead to wallow in the assumption that the offending party knew exactly what they had done. I withheld my forgiveness, waiting for my much-deserved apology (in my humble opinion). All I ended up with was a bitter heart and a broken relationship. Thankfully, God was able, after I knew Him, to get through to my stubborn heart, and He was able to restore the relationship, when I finally gave up my rights and just loved that person right where they were, accepting that what they were giving me was all they were capable of giving to any relationship. It was then that I was finally able to pray for that soul, pray that God would be able to heal and mend that heart, free it from the pain and suffering which crippled it (as God had to free my own). And who knows, maybe one day, the relationship will be all I hope it to be. At least, for now, I'm not the barrier to God's touch for either of us. 

Yes, there are times when we really have a justified reason to be offended, but God still calls us to forgive and let Him deal with the offense. Then we have to face ourselves and ask this question: Do we trust Him to take care of things? Are we afraid He will extend mercy, when we want Him to exact revenge? Are we going to insist on exacting revenge ourselves, to be sure things are handled the way we expect them to be handled? I've had those arguments with God too, and that's a subject for a future blog post. 

And there will be times when God calls us to end a relationship that is not healthy or beneficial. But in my experience, if it's truly Him calling the end, you will still have love in your heart. That's a great deal different than bitterness. 

I have found that the longer I allow bitterness to fester, the greater the battles will be to love, when it's all over. It's almost like bitterness is a virus, and it leaves antibodies in your heart. Later, when you truly want to love, sometimes that old virus will flare up, and you find yourself fighting that old battle once again, trying to regain your footing, having to re-conquer territory that you already won from the enemy. How much easier it would have been to forgive in the first place, the first time the Holy Spirit nudged me in that direction! 

My desire for the future is that I keep my expectations centered on God and His word. I know I do not always think as He thinks, for we are told in Isaiah 55:8: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord." 

I also know that He knows how and why I think as I do. 

Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it, Lord.
You have encircled me;
You have placed Your hand on me.
This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

If His word becomes the filter for all my future expectations and assumptions, then my responses will be more Christlike. People will be able to see Him, rather than me. 

John 3:30 says, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

John 12:32 says, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pins and Needles ... and the Waiting Thing

To say our family has been waiting, sometimes on pins and needles, for close to a month, is putting it lightly. 

On May 23rd, our son and his sweet wife had their first child, a sweet baby boy. When time permits, she plans to share their story on this blog.

For now, let’s suffice it to say that we never once anticipated or expected the unthinkable. Our grandson arrived without incident, all 7 pounds and 14 ounces of him; and within an hour of his birth, we almost lost him. We will be forever grateful to the Lord for His miracle touch, and for working through the incredible NICU staff at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, LA, to give us back our sweet boy.

Yesterday, our son celebrated his very first Father’s Day! What a blessing!

Our daughter and her husband are also ready to welcome their second child, a little girl, into this world. To say that they have been ready since her cousin was born is an understatement. Her actual due date is today, but the doctor has said, for the past three weeks, that he didn’t expect her to last another week before delivery. She certainly looks like she can’t last another day. We all thought a Father’s Day appearance would be perfect! And yet, Father’s Day has come and gone, and we are still waiting …

Expectantly …   

… on pins and needles.

God has spoken to my heart much about waiting over the past year. I’ve discovered that there is a difference between waiting and waiting well. I wait well ONLY when I am trusting in Him completely, when I am totally surrendered to Him, His plan, His purpose, His timing, free of any expectations of my own, except those founded in His character and His promises.

At other times, when I’m waiting with strong opinions of my own as to how something should happen, or when it should happen, that is when I merely wait … on pins and needles.

Oh how I’d love to say that I’ve mastered this waiting thing. But the truth of the matter is this: If I’d really mastered the waiting thing, there would be no pins or needles to it. There would be only peace. I would wait well every time, resting completely in my Father’s plan, His touch, His care … His ability to work all things together for good in my life.

Romans 8:28 says this: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

I love God, and I am called according to His purpose, so I stand on His promise to work all things together for good to me. There have been many a time in my life that I have stood on this promise in perfect peace, in the face of difficult trials; I have walked through those places feeling His strength carrying me through. At those times in my life, when all is beyond my grasp, beyond my poor attempts to fix or control, those are the times I seem to hunker down and wait well. I have no other choice. And I have learned to praise Him for those times! Our vigil for our grandson a few weeks ago was such a time. He poured out His grace and mercy on each one of us as we waited, and we waited in victorious fashion. His testimony at these times is exceptionally powerful!

But what about the times I don’t wait well? What about the times when I wait on pins and needles, every other breath a battle to stifle my own opinions and desires and to rest in His goodness, trust in His mercy, in His plans, as I wait on Him to move … in a heart, in my life, in answer to a prayer, in any given circumstance …

What about then?

Is His testimony any less powerful?

Is His promise any less true?

To His great glory and to my great relief, and to the testimony of His unending mercy, His working of all things together for good in my life isn’t completely dependent on me. It is more dependent on His character and His inability to be unfaithful to Himself, except for times when I choose to walk contrary to His calling. If I choose to sin, God is not bound to keep a promise to me. But as soon as I repent and turn back to Him in love, He is still willing to work even my mistakes towards His good purpose in my life. I have seen Him do it.  

So, yes, even if I am not waiting well, His promise is still true; He can still work all things together for good to me, for I still love Him, and in the midst of the battle between my desire and His, I am still called according to His purpose.

But my testimony for Him suffers when I don’t wait well, because the peace is missing. His peace that He died to give me. His peace that passes all understanding. The thing that others would see, that would draw them unto Him. It is dimmed, hidden behind my impatient flesh.

Philippians 4:6-7 says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

My pins and needles are a form of anxiety; therefore, when I’m waiting on God, but not waiting well, I do not have the peace that passes understanding. I look like every other impatient person in the world. I still have the promise of God available to me, that He will work everything to my good, but no one but me knows it!

How much better it is when I can surrender my expectations, my will, my opinions, my demands to a good and loving Father, for He longs only to bless me. I am a work in progress, and I’m happy to say that I “wait well” more often than I used to, not just after I have exhausted all my other options first and have no other choice; but how I long for a time when it is a rarity that I feel that pins and needles feeling as I wait.

James 1:2-7 NASB, instructs us:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.” 

I'll end with this. It was either the first or second day that our grandson was in the NICU. Wayne and I had stopped by our hotel to get something before heading back to the hospital. I glanced up at the sky, and I saw this:

To the bottom left of that upper cloud formation, I clearly saw what looked to me like the imprint of a hand. It brought great peace to my heart, because as I stared at it, I felt the whisper of God's love, like He was impressing upon my spirit that my life and the lives of my loved ones are in His care. He has us covered. His hands of blessing, protection, and prayer are outstretched toward us. 

May you know that truth in your spirit. May we each know it. And may it strengthen us to walk through our trials with confidence, to wait well, as we trust Him.