There are two incidents that I recall when thinking of false expectation. The first took place during my early high school years. Boarding School was a place of adventure for me. Not many people will describe their experience of boarding school in West Africa with such words, but I really looked forward to going back to school every term. I had the annoying seniors and the ‘wannabe’ classmates, you know, the ones who just wanted to be everything they were not; but it was still a really cool period in my life. I was in Junior school (JSS3) at the time and a few people had recently learned of my passion for writing – including myself! I really enjoyed spinning a story. I wasn’t ready for a full commitment to the ‘Press Club’ but I really wanted to try my hand at writing the news. So, I offered to write the ‘Mock News’ for the weekly socials’ night.
The Dining Hall Prefect at the time had recently cut someone’s hair because she entered the dining hall without a scarf whilst her hair was undone (this was a violation of the school rules by the way). This Prefect was a Christian, and I couldn’t understand why she refused to show mercy on this occasion. No student had ever cut another student’s hair as a punishment – even though many had threatened to. So, I spun a story around it – without mentioning any names of course – and it was read during the social’s night. Everyone had a really good laugh and I was happy with my writing. However, I spent half the night on my knees that evening as I was being punished by this Prefect. She couldn’t believe what I had written. “How could you do this to me and make me the laughing stock of the whole school?” she asked. I expected more from you. Really! I felt like asking her the same question!! I didn’t lie in my news report, I just made a very annoying situation sound funny. I don’t think I apologized because I really wasn’t sorry. We both had our expectations crashed that term. I guess I wasn’t who she thought I was and vice versa.
While that may seem like a simple tale from high school, the issues resonate through many circumstances in life. I recently got reacquainted with a young friend and she was having a really hard time in her marriage. She had walked away from her faith as soon as she got into university, and lived with her boyfriend for the good part of ten years. They finally got married and not long after, she found God again. Then the problems started. Being in love with God again meant that she could no longer tolerate some of the things she used to do, which her husband was still doing. From little things such as being content in a messy environment to partying most weekends, it suddenly seemed like there was no common ground between them anymore. Her expectations of a husband had changed and he wasn’t living up to her new standards. On the other hand, he was struggling to understand who this new person impersonating his wife was, and where the girl he got married to had gone! It was sad to see her so unhappy but this is her reality. She has chosen to pray her way through this difficult period and be patient with her husband.
I’ve had to let go of some expectations in recent years as well. Some within my father’s household and some with my husband, but most surprisingly, I’ve had to adjust the expectations I had of myself. The high standards I set for myself have in hindsight been a little unrealistic, or maybe I should say naïve; firstly because I am not God, so I don’t control the universe and secondly because I can only have direct control of how I choose to respond to the situation and not the situation itself. For example, I had plans to support my husband in building our home by having a source of income. In addition to my main career, I completed other courses and pursued a few interests with the hope that there will always be something that I can get paid to do. If the main path didn’t work as quickly as I would like, then one of the others could stand in, based on the theory of don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Hmmm. It has been quite a while since I had a regular source of income and I keep asking myself “how is this possible?”.
Sometimes I would feel ashamed because I don’t have a paid job or business. Other times I would just feel angry – at God mainly – but also at myself for failing in this area. It honestly feels like a failure sometimes.
Some people choose not to work and I respect and admire that decision, but I didn’t make that choice. I expected to have different streams of income at this stage in my life and I put things in place that should have ensured that my expectations would be met. Then life happened.
It is okay to let go or change certain expectations, as long as you are not giving up. There is a difference between the two options and you will know in your heart which path you are taking. If you modify the expectations you have of your spouse, or yourself, or anyone else, when faced with the reality of who they are, you are wise. I am not saying that you should accept excuses and laziness – like when I ask my son to take off his shoes, a task which he performs with ease, and he says “Mummy I can’t do it…” with little tears in his eyes. I tell him “yes you can, because you can do all things…” He smiles and finishes the verse while completing the task. However, when it comes to his small buttons, which some people feel he should be able to handle, I can see that he is yet to understand the concept, so I have adjusted my expectation in that area for the time being. I apply this same principle to my life. There is a time for everything and a season for every event under the sun. I’ve chosen to accept God’s timing concerning my expectations and my life is still happening.
Part of His-story!