Archive for January, 2013

Unmet Expectations

#5 in the Mysterious God series


The person of Jesus Christ was a pretty mysterious representation of God.

He was born into a poor family, so poor that they couldn’t secure a decent place for his birth, he grew up in Nazareth as the son of a carpenter, was nearly invisible for most of his life, and then heralded as the Son of God by a scruffy aesthetic from the desert, amassed a Messiah-happy following, taught in parables, infuriated the religious leadership and died a brutal death on a cross.  Yet with paradoxical simplicity he was also born of noble lineage, heralded by the stars themselves, visited by Magi from the East, affirmed by the voice of God, and resurrected to ascend into heaven.  How could one man fulfill all the prophecies and so few expectations?

Expectations are an interesting sort of emotion.  At times they can be insightful and profound.  At times they can represent some vestige of hope, or fall away into bitterness and pain.  At any time, I believe they carry the threat of confinement.

Think of the people in Jesus’ day.  Many of them felt the desperation for a Messiah who would restore Israel as an independent power.  Roman rule was a crushing weight and there was political and social unrest everywhere.  The corruption within Israel’s own leadership could hardly be ignored and perhaps there was the hope that all would be made new.  How many of them were blind to Jesus’ divinity because He didn’t meet the expectations they held most dear?  How many more fell away when He died because they had only held out hope that their expectations would somehow still be met?  What about the religious leaders?  Their expectations were even more closely defined – one of the dangers of knowledge without life.  Here is this man from Nazareth who claims to be the Son of God, yet breaks the rules, heals and does miracles, yet won’t keep the Sabbath, and has the extreme audacity to call them what they were?  Unthinkable.  The Messiah was not to unseat them, or gain his authority outside of them, or any number of threats to their legitimacy and position.  They were not ready for a Messiah who led in a way they never could.   Their expectations were like towering walls around them, blocking out the light of revelation.

It has been quite a fascinating process to ponder what I might expect God to do and why.  It is easy to point out the error of the Jews, but I think we fancy that time and culture separate us farther than they really do.  God moves in different ways in different seasons.  Do we reject him now?

We will never know God well enough not to be surprised by Him.  He is, after all, mysterious!  And we do God a great dishonor and ourselves harm by boxing Him into a world defined by wrong or too small expectations.  So, this is the question we need to ask ourselves.

What is the basis of our expectations?  Is it need or desire – like the Jews who so desperately wanted to be free of Rome?  Or is it legitimacy and position – like the religious leaders who were threatened the instant Jesus challenged them?  Are our expectations based on ourselves or on Him?

Expectations that are based on our own needs or woundedness have a way of becoming hard and brittle.  They don’t bend and grow, they resist or break.  It is when we look to His nature and His heart that we will find we can meet Him in the places of wonder and surprise – of unexpected behavior and abundant life.  We can reframe Him, the world, and our own lives around this new manifestation of the nature that is always the same.  We can more easily let go of what we thought was going to be when what we thought isn’t tied to our needs and value.

How small our expectations can be!  How much bigger is our God than we ever imagined.

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