Monday, April 9, 2012

Killer Expectations

We react to all kind of things in our lives. We laugh. We cry. We scream. We dance. We stand with mouth wide open. But the most potent reaction comes when things that we expected to happen - did not. A death of a dream. A death of an ideal relationship. A death of our expectation that our child will be nearly perfect. A death of a perfect day. Of a perfect vacation. It happens to every one of us.

In Every Place, my newly released missionary memoir - full of candid & pointed observations from a very human missionary - I refer several times to struggles with my own crippled expectations. Below is a short excerpt from a time when we had moved to Ivory Coast, West Africa, to do relief work with Liberian refugees. Absolutely nothing that we thought would happen in ministry that year did happen. It was mind-boggling. Disarming.

      If I knew then what I know now about the effects of long-term stress on a person, perhaps I could have recognized the signs of us entering a crash and burn mode. Since we were in Abid- jan where communication to the U.S. was more reliable, we were blessed to have several long conversations with our pastor. He was so good to take time to check on us and pray with us concerning our struggles. 
      Because we did not know how to voice all that we had experienced in the past months: our disillusionment with what we thought was supposed to be happening in ministry, how it was affecting every aspect of our lives, and how we wished to know what to do next, we kept fairly quiet when communicating with our family. The previous year, while still in the U.S., our family and friends had heard nothing but our desire to return to West Africa. That had happened, but we were finding it nothing like what we expected it to be. Our expectations had turned to shambles. 
     So we held back. To our families and also in the prayer letters we sent back to our churches. Missionaries in the trenches often do not believe people in American churches really want to know the whole truth of what we are facing in our ministries. That may be an unfair assumption, but it does weigh on what we put in prayer letters sometimes.
      Jeff and I did not recognize the fallout we were dealing with from those difficult months in Pehe and the uncertainty of future ministry in daunting circumstances. None of our thought processes were normal or healthy. We assumed every missionary dealt with the same kind of vulnerable feelings, so we struggled quietly. Wouldn’t exposing our weaknesses, our struggles to our family, our mission administration, to our supporting churches make us sound weak? Look inadequate for the task? We felt hemmed in by the trauma behind us and the uncertainty ahead of us. 

(Chapter 5, In Every Place - available on my website now & soon to be on Amazon & other online stores)

When we live in expectation's fragile satisfaction, 
we will be sorely unfulfilled and disillusioned 
in life.

Need more on this subject? Take time to read this ON.SPOT article entitled HISAPPOINTMENTS.

"The love that gives to me is the same love that keeps from me.
(Lynn Cowell, Internet Cafe Devotions)

Thus says the Lord,
     who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters,
who brings forth chariot and horse,
    army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
     they are extinguished, 
quenched like a wick:
“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
     and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:16-19