Life Unexpected. I decided that is going to be the name of my book.
Much of life is a surprise, isn't it? I can't even begin to list the expectations I had for life that did not work out as I thought. Sometimes that was a wonderful blessing. Other times that meant there were circumstances I didn't think I could bear.
In either case, the name of the Lord deserves praise. ( Ps.113:3)
Praising God has never been a problem when He has blessed me with undeserved gifts! And, I can say it's always been my goal when He's taken away things I treasure or believe I need. I have not always reached that goal, however. I wish I could say that I've chosen praise all the times I plead for answers instead, but I'm learning to do that more and more.
As I look ahead at my life, I'm wondering what expectations I'm still carrying. Do I expect to live a long life? Do I expect my kids or husband to live long lives? Do I expect we will never be jobless again? Or, to be financially secure? To always have a home? To keep all my limbs? To never be betrayed by people I trust? To always have freedom in our country? To have all my kids be college graduates? To avoid strife in my family? I actually do expect these things and more - to a degree anyway. Clearly, I am still learning how to let go of my expectations.
I am not suggesting for a moment that creating expectations to live by is wrong. I expect my kids to live by the rules of our home, for example. What I have learned, though, is that people tend to expect things and then feel wronged when those things aren't fulfilled. At least, I sure do. When that happens, we forget to be thankful for all God has provided us. We think we deserve things that were never really promised to us. We forget our ultimate mission because we put our focus on ourselves.
Just one example I have of this is that I always believed I would have my family around. I knew there was a chance someone could die early, of course. After all, my first brother died before I was born and the other when I was 5, so I wasn't naïve to the possibility. It just never occurred to me that by the age of 43, I would only have one brother alive out of 6 and that my dad would be in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. I assumed they would always be around until we were all older, because that is generally the rule.
I don't think I should have contemplated who may be dying when I was younger, but I DO know that when they did die, I felt robbed. I was shortchanged. I deserved to have them around just like all my friends who have their siblings and get to continue to share holidays and special events with them, didn't I?
BUT, then I realized......I was never shortchanged at all. The truth was that I had been given the blessing of a large family. I had been unaware that it would change so drastically, but it was still a gift - not a right that was taken from me. I'm not exactly speaking of the concept of just being grateful for what we had even though lives were cut short, but the shift in vision that allows me to see that we didn't lose out at all. This was God's story for our lives and it was different than I thought, but we were incredibly blessed to have what we had. I much prefer having all those brothers for part of my life than for none of it. In fact, for all I know, God could have extended their time with us because of our prayers.
That doesn't mean that I miss my loved ones any less. My heart hurts when I'm wanting them here, I grieve when it's obvious they are missing, especially when a major life event is happening. I don't say that so anyone will feel sorry for me, just to acknowledge that grief is part of life and I'm not denying that it's there.
God cleared what was a distorted view on my part and gave me new perspective. Maybe this is more of an internal thing on my part, and maybe it's not a need most people face -- that of releasing their expectations. But, I did need it. I remember pleading with God to help me be happy for those around me that still had their whole families intact (to even be happy for those that weren't building relationships within their families & didn't seem to realize the blessing they could have), because I would feel jealous and like my close family deserved to be together more than those kinds of families. God answered my prayer with the realizations I've talked about here and has buried the temptation to become bitter under the ocean floor.
Surrendering my rights and expectations of everything in my life will be a battle I will fight until the day I die, I'm sure, but my daily prayer to God is this: "I don't know what You are going to give or take away today (and it scares me a little). It may seem You are taking away things that I should have been able to count on (can I please count on keeping Tim for a regular life span since he's the last brother left? and for that matter, everyone else in the family?) ....but, You had the right to give me the life You did and I am surrendering my right to plan it, envision the future and think I deserve more. I just thank You for everything You have given me and will treasure all the blessings until my time with them is up."
"Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him..." Job 13:15