I’m struggling with expectations. I’m 33, recently married and in (I feel) a mediocre job. I stand at a crossroads. Years ago I created a simple plan to accomplish by the time I turned 30. I wanted to achieve a good education, solid and varied work experience and travel overseas at least a few time.
I’m proud to say I accomplished those goals. I expected at 30 I could then shift into career mode and easily find a great job. I never expected to get married young; not before 25, I thought. The extra eight years of waiting, though, became increasingly confusing and conflicting.
I look at my friends and my parents and their friends and wonder, “Are they living up to their expectations?” For the most part I’d say no. The economy hit everyone hard recently and many of my parent’s generation ended up laid off or with hours cut. Many in my generation are underemployed and over-educated. Many of my friends want marriage but have no prospects.
(I do live in Portland where ‘young people go to retire’, so perhaps my views are skewed.)
Standing at 33 and looking forward to the rest of my life I think, “What now?” Kids? Should I start adjusting my life now for children I may bear in the next few years? Career? Should I continue to search for the career I dream about? Do I even know what that is anymore? House? Should I get a part-time job on top of my full-time one to help save for the down payment? And the real question: Do I want any of this struggle?
And the most real question through all this: Where is God? I am faithful, work hard, pray, go to church and even went to seminary. Why don’t I get my heart’s desire? What expectations should I have of God and of God to deliver on the things I expect?
In my very limited experience with people in cultures with less access to material resources, I realized they rarely struggle with similar expectations. Why? They never thought they could ‘have’ all these things. Maybe they can and will, but it was never expected.
As hard as it is to realize, especially when popular Christianity espouses otherwise, we shouldn’t expect God to give us any of these things. Nor should we expect to be able to necessarily achieve them through hard work.
What can we expect of God? I think we can expect Him to treat us with the respect commanded by His creating us in His image. I think we can expect Him to follow-through on loving us. I think we can expect Him to forgive us over and over and over.
Unfortunately, we aren’t taught to expect those things. We’re taught to expect perfect relationships, material objects and full realization of all our dreams.
Bethany Sundstrom-Smith holds a Master's Degree in Theology (Th.M.) with a focus in Media Arts from Dallas Theological Seminary. Her background is in journalism, marketing, and making lattes. She lives in Portland and runs Cadia Marketing.