My friend Krista says she loves doing things for people, as long as they don’t expect them. I think what she means is that usually when people expect something from you, they get dollar signs in their eyes, and suddenly all they see is what you can do for them. They don’t see you at all anymore.
Other people will have their expectations for us, which can be good or bad. Some people’s expectations are stifling, killer, oppressive. Other people’s are scary, but full of hope. They say, “I know you’re afraid to take the first step, but take it anyway. It will be enough, and the next step will follow.” Their expectations are the pressure that can make us afraid to try anything new because it might not turn out—and it has to turn out. They’re the pressure that can keep us from starting at all. Or they’re the pressure that can make us start even though we’re afraid, the voice that says, “Go do it anyway.”
Expectation can be the voice of Satan or the voice of God. It can short-circuit life into depression, or it can send you flying off the edge of your world when you were sure you didn’t have the courage to jump. The good type of expectation is a call to come because you need to grow, to create, because this is the place you are meant to be. It is an invitation: “Welcome, come in. You were expected.” The bad type of expectation doesn’t want you at all. It only wants what you produce, which is never good enough, and you must always do it all on your own.
That’s how it works when evil speaks to us. It says that showing up is worth nothing; you’re a failure from before the start. All your fears speak at once, as though they’ve already come true. The voice of evil is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Responsibility gets turned all on its head: The things we are really responsible for—showing up, being honest—are never even mentioned. Instead, evil loads us down with impossible demands: “Make miracles happen. You call this creativity? You call this faith? Good grief. Maybe you really should give up. Spare the world more pointless junk. Who ever gave you the impression you could do this, anyway?”
But there, if we listen, is the weak spot in evil’s argument. Art, great lives and achievements are never about small people who didn’t have help. One-man success stories are slanted lies, and the truly successful are the first to point out: “Well, yes, I may have done the right thing; but you see none of it would ever have happened if it hadn’t been for her. And him. And them.”
Even the lonely things in life are never as lonely looking back as they seemed at the outset. God’s good expectation calls you in poetry, saying, “Follow; it’s okay sometimes not to know where you’re going. We’ll go together.”
Dig Deeper: Isaiah 43:1-2[Stephanie Gehring is a 22-year-old self-employed portrait artist, high school math tutor and freelance writer. She spent the first 16 years of her life in Germany and lives in Portland, Ore.]