Our daughter came home from college during a break in her second year. During a walk we got on the subject of happiness. She informed us that she had discovered the secret of happiness. I thought, “well, that was worth the price of tuition” but what I said was, “Really, and what have you discovered?” She told us that the secret of happiness is low expectations.
At the tender age of 19, our daughter had figured out quite a lot.
Much of our unhappiness comes about because reality does not meet our expectations. We come into situations expecting them to be a certain way, to make us feel a certain way. We expect people to act a certain way, we expect all sorts of things. And when people, and events don’t meet our expectation, we become unhappy, frustrated, disappointed, angry, or just sad.
Now of course, to function in the world, we have to have expectations. We expect people to drive on the right side of the road, every single day. We have to expect certain behaviors and standards to function as a society. But more often than not, we add our own expectations to how events should unfold. We enjoy having control. And when we don’t have control, we can at least have our expectations.
Going into this new year, 2021, I am lowering my expectations. I don’t believe that everything will “get back to normal” as soon as the vaccines arrive. I don’t expect worship attendance to bounce back to pre-COVID levels. I don’t assume that large gatherings will once again take place as soon as the pandemic is declared to be over. I am keeping my expectations low.
I am doing this to avoid disappointment, but also because expectations are an attempt at control. And control is often antithetical to love. As in a marriage relationship, where you can have love or you can have control, but you can’t have both. I think the same is true as we deal with the reality of this new year. We can seek control, or we can accept love. Love leaves us vulnerable. Control often takes the form of expectations. And when my expectations are not met…. Look out!
Faith is about trust and about love. It is trusting in the promises of God, trusting that God can love us and bless us no matter what is happening and no matter what we were expecting. This year may be very different from 2020, or it may be just as odd, but either way, God will be with us and will surprise us with grace. I have no idea how, but that is part of the surprise of grace.