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Well, what do you expect?

CommunityHeadshotThere’s a really unfortunate and horribly wrong school of thought that suggests that what we expect shapes what we get. Setting aside quantum experimentation, where the normal rules of physics seem not to apply, what I expect will not change what I find. My expectations don’t shape reality anymore than my feelings do.

This lends itself well to maintaining low expectations of life and reality. That way, we won’t be disappointed. As long as we keep our expectations low we won’t find ourselves heartbroken by the indifference of the world to our hopes.

The cynic, or the bitter soul, goes one step further and actually expects the worst. They might even seem disappointed when things go better than they expected. There can be a cold comfort in bitterness.

Our expectations may not shape the world but they do shape what we notice in the world. If we expect bad news and pay attention to bad news we will see only bad news. If we keep our expectations low and expect nothing beautiful or wonderful we will not very often see beauty or experience wonder. If we try to shape our expectations around what we want we may very well miss the things we don’t even know that we need.

This could all be reduced to simply keeping an open mind and not letting hurt, desire, or fear shape our expectations. That’s worth working on! We would all benefit from an attitude of open-minded expectation.

But there remains the potential to miss some really important things if we aren’t expecting them. Our tradition is rich with images of how the Divine breaks into the world. From the thundering voice to Job to the still small voice to Elijah. From the descending of the Spirit like a dove at Jesus’ baptism to the very humble and human birth of the Son of God.

Some of these moments would be impossible to miss and others so easy that if we weren’t expecting them we wouldn’t see them. So, the question stands for all of us:

What do you expect?

About Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman serves the parish of St. Mary’s East Kelowna and is the Executive Archdeacon for the Diocese of Kootenay. He still has days where he looks around and can’t quite believe how far God has brought him. During downtime he can be found with a good book, a properly strong cup of tea, at the gym, or playing golf badly. And if he’s honest, binge watching Netflix.

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5 Responses to Well, what do you expect?

  1. Trevor, your challenge reminds of of the liturgical tradition I was first taught: lex orandi, lex credendi. Or loosely translated, prayer shapes belief (specifically, reading scripture and praying as a discipline).

    While at first, I wanted to push back against your disagreement with “what we expect shapes what we get,” I think you have ironed out a subtle difference: lex doesn’t change what happens around us (in so much that God does what God will). But it most definitely changes our relationship with God, our understanding of our place in creation, and the grace with which we interpret those who surround us.

    • Thanks Jesse. There’s no question that we are formed by how we pray and live. But in the sense you identify I’m an objectivist in that my formation doesn’t change reality. It simply opens me up, if well done, to a better understanding of reality.

      As a side note, this is why Christian (and human!) formation is so important. A well formed person sees with open eyes, heart, and mind. They see past judgement and brokenness into the depth of wholeness and peace.

      • I don’t often quote Oswald Chambers, but in My Utmost for His Highest, he wrote, “To say that “prayer changes things,” is not as close to the truth as saying, “prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis or redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in one’s inner nature.”

  2. With elijah and the message to us- The wind, and earthquake, and fire, did not make him cover his face, but the still voice of God did! Love this article- The Lord is with us – if we would just stop and listen! God Bless you Trevor!

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