“I expected to stop making mistakes in Spanish by now.”
“I never expected my son to have problems in school.”
“I expected that I’d have a great support system of other missionaries.”
“I never saw this coming.”
Expectations. We all have them, we all compare our lives to them, we all struggle when they are not met. I think if you talk to anyone who is working in cross-culturally ministry (or heck, in any job or ministry) you will find that they have many unmet expectations. I know it’s true for me. I hold on to things that I want to happen, or wish desperately that they could happen another way, or feel frustrated when all my high hopes disappear in sleepless nights and painful conversations.
“I expected it to be hard, just not this hard.”
That seems to be what I say when things get tough. We read stories of people who have stepped out to do something big for God and we see the bumps in the road…really big bumps like deaths in their families, or terrible sickness, or financial poverty. The stories we read in the Bible do not paint a rosy picture of what a life looks like when we run after God. But somehow, somehow, we incorporate our ministry expectations, and our life expectations, into our version of the Christian American Dream.
Why can’t I have it all? A life lived for God, and healthy kids, and financial blessings? There is a lot of popular thinking out there that tells us we can somehow skip the cost, lower the price, if we have enough faith and passion. Somehow the notion that God “owes us” creeps into our thinking. Haven’t I done enough for Him? Don’t I deserve more? I moved to another country for crying out loud? When our expectations come crashing down, we stand staring our disillusions in the face.
The reality is that God owes me nothing, but He’s already given me everything. It’s all by His grace. I am currently working through Ephesians and learning this lesson once again.
“For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8, emphasis added)
How can I demand that my expectations be met in the way I want, and when I want? How can I think that God owes me something? He owes me nothing, and I have no grounds for demanding anything. He stepped into my life and saved it, by His grace. It turns out that I really had nothing to do with it at all. He already did the unexpected, and changed me for eternity.
It’s all grace. It’s grace that I even get to be here. It’s grace even when I live in the unmet expecations, the sleepless nights, the longing, and the pain. I want to learn to see it through His grace and maybe somehow, someday, I can thank Him for it all.