We all create expectations. But how often are our expectations a wholesale surrendering of ‘what could be’ to ‘what is?’ How often are they borne of a discouraged soul and a frightened heart that cannot see beyond the realities of the moment so as to envision a brighter reality standing at-the-ready in the next moment? How many times have we taken the darkness of today and handily projected it onto the landscape of a tomorrow that is in fact full of light? How many times have we expected that failure will be our lot, disappointment our bedfellow, and that this curse is somehow our due? We create expectations because that’s what we do, so we’d better be very careful as to how we create them.
What Shapes Our Expectations
There are an innumerable array of elements that mold and craft our expectations. However, there are several that seem to directly impact most, if not all of the rest. In and of themselves, these three are certain to kill our vision and utterly convince us that tomorrow will surely embody the darkness of today. Left unchecked to bleed into the other areas of our lives, they can leave us destitute.
First, we have a tendency to focus on the negative experiences that we have had for fear that the positive ones weren’t authentic, or if perchance they were, they’re unlikely to come our way again. Second, we build a faith that’s safe, which means that it’s ‘faith’ in name only and therefore it holds no power. Third, our vision is limited by the walls that we’ve meticulously constructed all around ourselves in order to protect us against imaginary enemies, or at least enemies that are not nearly as gigantic as we’ve given them permission to become. And while it’s obvious that far more goes into the creation of our expectations than these three ingredients alone, these would appear to be inordinately impacting.
Making ‘What Is,’ ‘What Will Be’
Because these appear to be an inherent part of us, we gather up the sum total of our negative experiences, we fall victim to them because the lackluster nature of our purported faith can do no other, and we hold them hostage to these incessantly compressing walls of ours. And in this ever-weary concoction of negativity, faithless faith and massive walls, everything coalesces to shape a distorted observation of ‘what is,’ which then goes on to shape these rather dark expectations of ‘what will be.’
Therefore, our expectations are constricted to what will ‘not’ happen verses being exuberantly expanded to embrace what actually might. We project the misery of the present onto the landscape of the future and render it such before we even get there to better ascertain what it might actually be. We live with this morbid expectation that nothing will get better, that the future is eternally doomed to be nothing more than the past in redress, and that any hope of something better would be yet another expectation disappointed when we feel far too fragile to bear yet another disappointment of any sort at all.
The morning was yet dark as if the darkness was purposefully lingering in spite of a morning that should have long been well on its way. The cold of a winter in retreat somehow remained fiercely undiminished, casting a biting edge across what was supposed to be a warming spring. The snow had secretly begun falling under the cover of a night now lifting, leaving a world elated by spring’s flowers laying helplessly encased in winter’s white. It was as if the coming of spring was a promise disappointed; a hope fallen prey to a winter that spring was supposed to be advancing against. That days tenderly warmed at the edges with hints of green breathing new life into winter’s impossible cold were a hope ripped away.
Sometimes we let circumstances of the moment create our expectations of the future. We altogether lose the vision of being able to see beyond what besets us at the moment. What we see is the ‘what is’ that our minds have interpreted as ‘what will be.’ And we throw the ‘what could be’ of a future yet unwritten into the straightjacket of a ‘what is’ that has all but consumed us. The ‘now’ is projected forward and the future is subsequently cast in its unforgiving mold. We create the shackles that bind us to the present and we fashion the blindfold that keeps us from seeing the future as anything but the present. Our expectations of ‘what will be’ are crafted entirely by ‘what is,’ and yet it is highly likely that neither are correct.
I Heard a Robin
Suddenly and without warning, out of snow and darkness I heard a robin. I heard the harbinger of spring call out into the dead of winter. I heard a single song that raised itself up against the dark and the cold and the anger of a winter being forced into retreat. It sat entirely at odds with everything that made that morning that morning; this bold song of this single bird off in the distant distance. As held against the power of the frigid morning, it seemed to be voice mocked by the morning itself. It seemed a lone prophet of spring that was ridiculed for bringing a such a song into such a morning. But it sang anyway. It sang until the sun rose. It sang the promise of something better that I could not see because I had errantly projected the ‘what is’ of a dark moment onto the ‘what could be’ of a spring already surging in my direction. This single robin was not deterred by the darkness and foreboding cold of my expectations. It sang. And that evening, it bid the cold day farewell by singing into the night of spring well on the way.
It took a robin, this single harbinger of spring to remind me that the moment is just that…the moment. On the heels of any day or any event there is a robin singing in the distance. There is the hope of something coming, of the end of the darkness and the cold, of all things always moving on to new things. I cannot allow my expectations of ‘what is’ to create some sort of construed view of a future that in and of itself will not bow to my ‘what is’.
It might be dark. It might be cold. I might not see the horizon. But out on the horizon’s edge there stands a robin. There is something that is raising its song into the darkness and the cold, heralding the truth that something new has long been running in our direction. Such is the story of spring, and better yet, such is the promise of Easter. Something new is coming and the darkness of our expectations cannot stop it. It’s existence is undeniable and its arrival is inevitable. So you might take a moment, step into a darkness that is cowering before the light of a new day, pull your coat tight against a cold that is bowing in sure retreat, raise an ear and listen for a robin.