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