"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Luke 6:35 (NIV)
You've waited all week. You have saved calories, ate that salad and drank that water - all in great anticipation of going out for dinner on Saturday night and having that slice of chocolate cake. You get through dinner and order the cake, envisioning how wonderful it will taste. You put your fork into it and savor it in your mouth and, BAM, it's not as great as you had expected. All that work for something that didn't meet your expectations. All that work for nothing! Just for the reality check - "I" would ensure that cake was still gone!!
Maybe it is a different expectation. Maybe your expectation is with a new job - wanting to get into a company that you had great expectations for - only to be let down by poor management and less than challenging opportunities. Maybe your expectation is with a new appliance - and learning that great new oven really DOESN'T have a self-cleaning feature. Although all of these things can disappoint us, we can do something about the disappointment - look for a new job, purchase a different appliance, or, yes even go to a great bakery for a chocolate cake.
Yet, when it comes to our expectations in relationships, these disappointments can be more difficult to navigate. We may enter a new dating relationship with high hopes of romance and chemistry. As time moves on, the expectations you may have had that were initially being met seem to be drifting away. We may have expectations of our parents or children, expecting that they will react in a certain fashion, only to be looking for a response that never comes. The greatest disappointment may come from when we do something great for someone, and nothing comes back in return. Whether that "good deed" has come through your time, energy, or material items (like money), when we have gone out of our way to do something and don't receive back a response, our expectations are shattered and we are disappointed (and yes, there have even been times when the disappointment can run into anger and rage). Have you been there? I have and the degree of hurt and disappointment can be overwhelming.
This past week, I was speaking to a co-worker about people's expectations - what they expect at work, in relationships and in life. What we came to realize is that when we put ourselves out there, whether it is for people we know or don't know, we can have false expectations - expectations that are unrealistic. It is one thing to have expectations on a great piece of cake or an awesome new job. Yet, it is different to place outlandish expectations on others.
As Jesus says in our verse today, our goal in life should be to do good - to those we know and those we do not know - and not to expect anything in return. Do good and move on. This is hard - at least I find it hard. There have been occasions when I have done something for someone, and maybe all I was expecting was a thank you. The thank you may never have come. Have you been there? Yet, if I were to have approached the situation with a "Jesus heart", there would have been no disappointment and only a happy soul. Others have no need to reward us - but God will! God gives us great reward for doing good - without our false expectations. Living our lives the way God has instructed provides such greater blessing than anything we can expect in return.
Jesus teaches us so much about who we are and who we can be. I am sure I will continue to have expectations of things, people, and situations. What I pray for is a heart that turns my reflection inward and not outward, to see the false expectations I may have set up. When that happens, I also pray that a smile comes to my face and that a voice inside says, "Susan - you did it again." May the love that Jesus has for me overcome all of my faults - and false expectations.
"Dearest Jesus, how many times I have entered situations with false expectations! As I look to your word, I see very clearly that my mission should always be to do good - with only ONE expectation - knowing that at that moment, I am more closely aligned with YOUR expectations than anything else. Help me to see, Jesus, that the one expectation I can always count on is your love. In your gracious name I pray, Amen."