Recently, an acquaintance mentioned that another mutual acquaintance had asked him if I am "expecting," to which he replied that he did not know because, well, we're acquaintances and don't run into each other that often. I assured him that I am, and we had the normal "Congratulations...how does your son feel about it...etc., etc., etc..." kind of conversation. Nothing about it struck me as very interesting, until just now, as I was thinking about what I might write for this blog, having not posted in 6 months, and as I was thinking that I will soon need to buckle down and write my portion of my church's Advent devotional booklet. In the midst of that thought process, the word "expecting" came to mind, and it just struck me as, well, kind of odd. I realize it's one of those colloquialisms that we all understand, but I thought I'd consider it literally for a moment...
So, to be silly, here are a few things I'm expecting:
1. I'm expecting that between now and April 20th (or thereabouts), someone I don't know well will think it appropriate to touch my stomach...and I will be tempted to punch that someone...
2. I'm expecting that in the next 5 months, I will have at least one more conversation with someone regarding considering a VBAC instead of a second C-section.
3. I'm expecting that the Duke Men's Basketball team will fare well again this year.
4. I'm expecting that I will preach several sermons without my shoes on this winter, for comfort's sake.
5. I'm expecting that I will recover enough from a recent back injury that I can once again take my dogs out for a walk...until the aforementioned C-section sets me back for 6 weeks again...
6. I'm expecting that I will get involved in some Facebook discussions I will regret.
But in all seriousness, here are a few things I wasn't expecting, in the process of getting pregnant:
1. I never expected it would take more than a year.
2. I never expected the depth of disappointment of negative pregnancy tests, again and again (and let's not talk about chemical pregnancies...).
3. I never expected to experience hot flashes at the age of 36, due to fertility-related drugs.
4. I never expected to be able to empathize even just a little bit with those I already knew who have struggled so much to have children of their own. (Which is not to say I fully understand their struggles!)
5. I never expected to feel so frustrated at what were most likely innocent comments, like, "Oh, when will Benjamin have a sibling?!"
Life is seldom anything that we expect, in case you hadn't recently noticed. I guess that's why that word is so interesting to me today. I expect certain things from certain people or events because that's how my life experience has gone or that's what I want to happen. Isn't is so difficult to realize quite what all we're expecting, sometimes?
When I was young, I believed that everyone went to church--literally, everyone. My family went to church--didn't all families go to church? It's a silly example, but it makes me think about things like perspective and frame of reference. It calls to mind the limitations that we have in our own individual experiences--we can only ever be one person and experience life from one person's point of view. That's always been disappointing to me. I'd like to know what it's like to grow up in a big city, in a neighborhood, in a house that has multiple stories--with a bedroom with a window seat (well, that's what I wanted when I was much younger). I'd like to be able to fully understand what life feels like for people who look different from me, for people who don't have the same advantages I have had, and maybe even for people who have more advantages. How often do I realize that what I expect from others is inherently related to my own life experience?
Sometimes I do realize that, and I might feel shame or frustration. I can't not be who I am...but how can I be so narrow-minded sometimes, so demanding, so unaware? At those moments, I probably expect more of myself than I am truly able to manage. But I guess that's where some other expectations that I have come in:
*I expect that God is showing me the grace to understand others more, day by day.
*I expect that God is at work, redeeming the crap in the world that I see and can't understand...and even the yucky stuff that I don't see and/or tacitly participate in...
*I expect that by continuing to be part of the church, broken though it may be, I will be a vessel for God to change the world.
*I expect that through the Holy Spirit's work in my life I will grow to have more compassion and grace toward all other people, that they might know God's love through me.
*I expect that I am moving toward Christian perfection and may be made perfect in this life (by God's grace, of course!). (Hey, I said it on stage before I got ordained, so I might as well mention it here!)
I could go on, but maybe you get the point. There are lots of things in this world that I know I am expecting and lots of things that I don't even realize I am expecting...but more importantly, there are those things I expect by faith--that I hope for, more than anything. Yep. I hope for those things. I don't just expect them. And that is much more important than what Duke's basketball team does this season. And that makes me think of Advent, too. We wait. We expect. Most of all, we hope.
Yep, I'm expecting. But I'm hoping for so much more.