expectations/disappointment is a subject of conversation that has come up several times now with a friend of mine, and i really would like to explore it more--how it affects our lives and our faith. i would really hope for this to be a conversation as well, so any comments would be greatly appreciated.
i've heard depression described as "shattered expectations." does that perhaps give us some sort of insight into why depression is so rampant in our culture these days? maybe the problem is not that we just have so many bad things happening to us (as people who are in many third world countries are generally happier than americans), but that we have all given into a false expectation of what we are supposed to expect out of life--out of our relationships, our possessions, our actions.
where does this come from? does it come from our overly scientific approach to reality? that there should be a simple cause/effect relationship between what we do and what happens. and then life doesn't follow those rules. or is it that we are so saturated with marketing that tells us our toothbrush will make our lives more happy? that we expect every product to deliver some piece of what we are missing. is it our churches? that tell us the Lord will bless you and will work out everything to your good (with a narrow interpretation on what "blessings" are).
the reasons are rampant. i'm sure there are many more. through the mix of them all it is apparent that this is pervasive across most if not all of the american subcultures. we've all bought into these expectations no matter our economic/social class, religion, race, location. we all think that life owes us something. and that we deserve the best. or if not the best at least something that is on a level with what everyone else seems to have (which is a very high level).
some of us have different beliefs as to how we get there, but getting there is always the goal. and when we fall short of it for one reason or another (our fault or another's), we experience strong disappointment. and God seems to make his way in the mix:
"American evangelicals believe there is a crisis afoot over whether God is good enough for Americans to believe in him. Jesus demonstrated the goodness of God by including the outcasts and accepting the last, lost, least and overlooked. Evangelicals want God to make their life great…now."
we all operate on a rewards-based system. if we do what God wants then he will bless me, he will make my life good. everything else is rewards-based. if you work hard you'll get good grades, a good job, a great family, etc. it all just takes some good 'ole fashion protestant work-ethic grit. we put our money in the machine and we'll get what we pay for. and we'll get it right away. it's reliability. and often God doesn't seem so reliable.
we expect guarantees, even when we really have no promise and we just assume we know how the "machine" works. this leads to massive disappointment and shattered expectations--along with indignant reactions.
but perhaps life is a little more like a seed. if you plant it perhaps it will grow. many factors go into it, and it requires great care and patience. and sometimes it just doesn't grow. sometimes the soil is bad, or other factors we can't explain. you don't necessarily expect the seed to grow. you believe it will. you hope it will. but it's not in your control. unless you have perfected the science of farming and controlled all the external factors through massive expensive machinery--but that only reinforces the point, that we believe we can control all those factors in our own lives.
control is a big part of it. that's what's nice about rewards-based systems--you know how it works and you just have to live up to your end of the bargain.
the thing is, God doesn't really work on that system. and neither does love. huh, funny how those two go together. the fact is we don't always get what we deserve, especially from God. and more often than not that is probably a good thing. besides what good things we think we deserve would probably rarely be due to us even if there was a system.
of course i operate under all these assumptions myself, even if i seem to identify them now. disappointment is something i can't help but struggle with. or can i help it? we all have expectations for our lives, things we would like to see happen, ways we thought it would always play out--at least to some extent. i think part of my problem is that i believe that these expectations are what is best for me, when really i can't be certain of that at all.
but what is the answer? should you just simply lower your expectations? then you won't be disappointed so much. but then it seems as if your life is in some way muted. you can't fully enjoy the good things that actually do happen.
i've read some spiritual writings that talk about detachment--not in a stoic entirely removed way, but not attaching your desires to your fulfillment and joy. i'm not sure what i think about this; i am still wrestling with it. part of me thinks it sounds so removed, without real hope, disingenuous, and not very like Jesus. but then again maybe it is. maybe you have to live this way, seeing detachment as a form of surrender of your life to God--making your emotions no longer the judge. i still don't really understand it though.
so are we doomed to go through life suffering disappointment and letdown? that's life. is it? we learn to heal and we learn to cope. we lose our youthful idealism and optimism. and as you get older and older you have taken enough hits that you are ready to be done with it all, ready to be spared any more of it? is there another way to live? can we truly ever come to the place of taking ourselves out of the center of our own experience?
thoughts? please chime in here anytime.