There’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?