Monday, October 03, 2016

Expectations and Disappointments

If you've ever been on an Emmaus Walk, you've heard the phrase, "Don't anticipate." The pilgrim on an Emmaus Walk is asked to trust the process - don't judge it until it's over - don't worry about what will happen next. Just experience it.

I was a table leader on a walk, and one of the pilgrims at my table felt as if she had thoroughly prepared herself for the walk. She had prayed - she had fasted from all media. She had given herself over to this event. But as it began to unfold, it wasn't living up to her expectations. She was disappointed, and she wanted to leave. The walk leaders convinced her to stay at least through lunch. As it happened, God worked through her Emmaus experience during the worship service prior to lunch, and all was well.

How do expectations and disappointment mesh? Brown says in Rising Strong, "Disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment."

Does that mean we should never get excited about anything? I remember as a child that I would muffle my excitement about a coming event, just in case it didn't happen. I think that dampening of anticipation is a way we protect ourselves from disappointment.

But what happens to the joy? To the pleasure we feel in looking forward to something? Are we willing to trade away the joy in order to protect ourselves from potential loss?

Brown says it is important to reality-check our expectations. Are we expecting the perfect holiday celebration? Is perfect possible? Are we expecting a relaxing vacation with three kids? Is that realistic? Once we reality check our expectations, then we can find the joy in the excitement of what is realistic, and open ourselves up to the surprise of what we didn't expect, but will discover to be wonderful.

This year we gave up the expectation of a week long vacation at the beach. Steve started a new job in the spring, and new jobs bring opportunities to accumulate vacation days rather than a store of them. Instead, we decided to plan short, week-end getaways. The first was over Memorial Day, and we spent three days traveling throughout our state, seeing things we've always said we should see, but never have (or haven't seen together). The only expectation was a weekend away together, and it was wonderful. There were stories, surprises, relaxing meals, drive time to talk ... It was fantastic, but the joy would have been missing if I had kept my original expectations for the summer.

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