What part does expectations play in our psychological health? For children it seems healthy for a child to be able to trust a person to provide for their needs. From that trust is built an expectation that our needs will be met. In a perfect world a child would never have to questions those expectations being met. Children sometimes have poor expectations based on the fact that they are extremely egocentric. Parents conversely can set poor expectations whether through neglect or a poor perceptions of their role. For children a healthy expectation in a perfect world seems acceptable, what about unhealthy expectations in a broken world?
I remember when I get married meeting this problem head on. I could not ask for a more wonderful, beautiful wife. She continually surprises me with how she is able show Christ to people through her vulnerability and her conviction. When we got married it was a process of both of us trying to get the other one to become the person that we expected them to be. I wanted to fix all issues that I perceived at the start of the marriage. If I was going to be in this for the long haul there are a few things that she needed to know (you can imagine how that worked).
I also remember the day that I realized that my son was not going to live up to my expectations. Saying that sounds like I have given up on my son, I most definitely have not. I had been operating on this 12 year plan in which my son was going to graduate at 18 just like everyone else. I finally sat down with my wife one night and we talked about not being as concerned about my son graduating as having him know and love God. He may end up living with us longer than I expected, but I want my son to understand love the right way from the right source, and that may take more work but I believe the direction will produce a much better result.
There is a story in the Bible about a guy named Peter that believed that Jesus was going to be Israel’s conquering king. When Jesus was arrested and it looked like he was not going to fulfill Peter’s expectations, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands. He lopped off the ear of on of the guards. Jesus, even in that moment, corrected Peter and told him that he could call down thousands of angels if he chose to. Peter and Jesus had different expectations, Peter’s were just too small. Later on after Jesus was killed and came back from the dead, conquering death not just the Roman’s, Jesus helped Peter to see the bigger picture.
Jesus didn’t use warrior language, the language of a lion; he used pastoral language, the language of a shepherd. Peter thought this was about a physical battle and Jesus told him to “feed his sheep”. Peter had to give up his small expectations in order to be able to work for God’s bigger plan. In the same way I had to give up on my expectations in order to fulfill the bigger picture of our marriage, which has been much greater than I could have expected. In the same way also I had to give up my expectations of my son in order to see God do what has been truly miraculous in his life.