Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Great(er) Expectations

"So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?"
-Kathleen Kelly, You've Got Mail

We all have these expectations of what life is supposed to be. They start from childhood, from the first time that we pretend to have a house or a job, or be part of a social group. They aren't the same for most people- there are many details that create the stories of who we are to be that factor differently into every tale.

Expectations are a funny thing- they aren't always set by the person who they are laid out for- actually, by the time we all start to realize that things are expected of us, most of us have already been told what those things are by society, by our family structures, and by the people we most want to impress.

For some, that means schooling- the more education, the better. College, grad school, and then maybe second and third degrees. The more the knowledge, the better in life they are. For others, it's a family that is important- the more kids, the better. While society does have social norms that factor in depending on such things as location and income, there is a certain need to procreate that seeps through some people's vein with a certain venom, stinging the heart until there are little feet in the house. Still others, which we pretend don't exist, expect to be in gangs or groups of destruction because of their location or social status. Or even because of their family life... these expectations seem more dramatic, but are based out of desires for acceptance and survival- the same as all other life expectations.

I am at a point in my life where my friends and I are just starting to take hold of these social norms- we are just starting to understand the implications of such expectations, and how big of an impact they have had on things that we have already done, and are just starting to do. I don't know what to do with this knowledge, but I almost feel like Solomon penning about the dangers of knowledge in Ecclesiastes- the more I come to know, the less I realize I know at all.

For example, I know what is expected of me by my family, by my society, by my job, and by my friends. But I don't know what I would have done if those expectations had not been settled into place. I don't know what I would have taken hold of if my life had suddenly opened up to freedom and I had no one to expect anything of me. In Water For Elephants, the main character finds himself orphaned, homeless, and failing out of school. In desperation he jumps a train and joins the Circus, and that's where his life leads. It isn't easy, but it is a life that he loves and chooses, and accomplishes many things in.

Realistically, I would have never joined the circus (can't deal with clowns). But I don't know what I would have done. I have ideas sometimes- dreams that play through my mind about how things would have gone. But you can never be sure- a truth which is actually somewhat troubling. I wonder if these things that I have dreamed of doing are the life that would make me happiest. I wonder if I am disillusioned by what others want for me. I wonder if we all are just marking time on this earth (and no, I don't think I am the first to think these things, yet still, I think them all the same).

But I take comfort in what my mentor told me when I explained all this to her- God's expectations for us vary so differently. All He wants is our submission- our surrendering of our life to Him. It is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the easiest, at the same time, because it's the ability to let go of everything we've ever been for the freedom of what we might become. I am comforted to know that my earthly life is not in my hands, and that I will know what God expects from me when I start to realize His goals for my life. And that's a blessing, because those are the only expectations that once I fulfill them, will actually make me happy.

Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book about getting up and leaving life and expectation behind called "Through Painted Deserts". In his travels, he finds God and all that he can become in Him, and his world is rocked radically. And in his example I find truth- that when your heart is talking, you better tune out society and listen in, because the universe is siting before you, waiting.

It is my goal in life to find God and let him rock my world. No matter what it does to the expectations that those in my life set before me.


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