Great Expectations

As Hubby and I sat down to dinner the other night, I looked through our kitchen window to see two teenage boys run across my neighbor’s yard. The first, a resident of the home, was a lanky boy carrying a skateboard. He was followed at a short distance by a medium-build friend wearing a bright blue Kool-Aid shirt. (I would have felt an immediate connection with my fellow Kool-Aid endorser, but he lacked my full-pitcher physique. He looked more like a Kool-Aid juice box than the round pitcher look I currently pull off.) My facial expression must have shown surprise in the split-second that my brain processed all this because Hubby asked what on earth was going on behind him. “The neighbor’s kid and the Kool-Aid man just ran across the yard”, I replied. He wheeled around in anticipation, but his expression soon made it obvious that my Beloved was clearly disappointed. “I thought you meant someone literally dressed in the full Kool-Aid pitcher outfit was running across the yard.”

While that would be filed under both “Hilarious Dinner Occurrences” and “Choking Hazards”, this instance will have to rest under “Unusual Beverage Humor” and “Unmet Expectations”.

Expectation is an integral part of life. We are often advised to be flexible with our expectations so that we aren’t disappointed, although I find this to be a bit ridiculous. The hope of something phenomenal is what enables humans to endure all manner of trials.  This is why there are 2 hour waits for 2 minute roller coaster rides, why marathon runners endure months of brutal training, and why warnings of a ‘smaller Christmas’ never deter children from stampeding down the stairs before sunrise.

Particularly as adults, disappointing experiences, fear and unmet expectations can make us bitter and pessimistic. They can also make us disciplined and better planners if we have a good attitudes and back-up plan. This is why people e-mail extra copies of important papers to ourselves, leave extra early to find parking before appointments, keep emergency diaper-bags in the car, and buy shotguns in case of a Zombie Apocalypse.

I had great expectations for today. It was the first time my husband would be able to join me for an in-depth ultra-sound and see the face of his son. I expected that the parking lot would be full, that many of the handicapped parking spots would be filled by people who shouldn’t be in those spots, that the ‘Expectant Mother’ parking spots would be full (yep), and that I would be waiting long past 10 minutes to be seen.  What I did not expect was to be told that the doctor was off today and all appointments had been cancelled without notice. As I tried to book a series of new appointments for the next 6 weeks I heard a cheerful “We expect to see you back on Mondays and Thursdays for the next several weeks!” Yes, I expect you do. My disappointment and frustration might have been lessened if I hadn’t pinned such hope on sharing the joy of seeing my son with his father or if it hadn’t taken hours of driving and nonrefundable childcare reservations to be at the required appointment. Unmet expectations bring out the worst in people.

Let me repeat that: “Unmet expectations bring out the worst in people.” Allow it so sink in so you’re prepared for the ridiculous, passionate reviews of tonight’s VP Debates. The expectations for this debate are unbelievably high; the potential for disappointment is sure to be proportional. When months of anticipating ‘crushing victory’, exposed lies, total blunders, and tongue-tied sputtering by two men lead up to debate watching parties complete with popcorn, I fear that expectations may be out of hand. Let me quote Twain and leave it there: “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Unmet expectations bring out the worst in people when we believe our expectations are reasonable. When products fail, customer service is deplorable, children embarrass us during important moments, interviews go poorly, marriages erupt, or automatic withdrawals charge twice people get downright ugly. The two locations where I’ve heard the most yelling and cussing from the unsatisfied are airports and cell-phone stores.  On the other hand, surpassed expectations do amazing things for the human spirit. Something in us makes us root for the underdog, cry at stories of overcome obstacles, and cheer wildly when the impossible is proved otherwise. The hope of something beyond our expectations is what keeps some people going.

This week I’ve noticed how much Jesus told his disciples about what to expect. He was a master of changing expectations. The expected Messiah would be a Roman-crushing powerhouse radiating glory; Jesus was a homeless friend of sinners who touched the unclean and hugged little snot-nosed children. As he overlooked Herod’s Temple (now the Dome of the Rock) and the disciples marveled at the architecture of the great building, Jesus told them to expect it to be taken to the ground with each 60 foot stone overturned. “When should we expect this?” the disciples asked. This ‘unbelievable’ event occurred about four decades later in 70 AD.  Jesus repeatedly warned the disciples to expect that he would be turned over to die and of incredible suffering and martyrdom that awaited them. He wanted the disciples to be prepared and have realistic expectations so that the disappointment and bitterness would not set in. Likewise, he filled them with great expectations. He told them he would rise in three days, prepare a place for them, send the Holy Spirit, and anoint them in power. Jesus told them of Heaven’s riches and rewards beyond measure beyond what the human mind can conceive. Jesus outlined reasonable expectations and tried to prepare the disciples, but in the end they had to experience it for themselves to understand all they were told to expect. No amount of advice, warnings, or training can do what experience can. Just ask any mother who read any variation of a  “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” book.

Sometimes the difference between waiting and expecting is perspective. My hope is that I continue to have great expectations regardless of my circumstances. You never know when a giant Kool-Aid man will run through the backyard—and I want to be ready to enjoy it when it happens.

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