“I’m praying for you,” said a woman to me today. I didn’t even know her name, but she knew of me and knew some of my story. Apparently my mom has a big mouth. I’m not complaining I love my mom and I appreciate her having people pray for me. It got me to thinking about how connected we are. Actually this whole day has me thinking about that. I had coffee with a friend earlier today, then I went and hung out with my mom and finally ended up at a friends house. Besides me, the other thing all those moments have in common is the discussion of unity in the body of Christ.
What I find fascinating about all three conversations is that the people I was talking to are seeking the same thing I am. I started this ecumenical journey to answer questions I have about the modern church, to help me understand why there are denominations and to clarify how I fit into the body of the church, but above all else I am seeking unity and community. In my first conversation, I discovered that my friend is getting ready to launch a new aspect of her ministry that will bring together a community of people from a variety of denominations and backgrounds all seeking deeper relationship with Jesus and each other. Interestingly, that is exactly what my other friend is doing. My mom is building around her a group of people that all share one thing in common, and that is their love for Jesus, and she doesn’t care about anything else.
These three women are living life as we were meant to live. Jesus laid it out for us when He said that we are to love God, ourselves and others. And He did say to love with all our heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22). That is to act and think and speak in love and only love.
Sunday was a bad day. Six bombings, casualties over 500 and a death toll over 250. As I said, it was a bad day. It was also Easter, a day dedicated to celebrating life and love, the greatest act of love. In the wake of that tragedy in Sri Lanka a beautiful thing has happened, a call for unity. Around the globe, people of many faiths have been expressing one message clearly and that is that we need to stop fighting and just love. That was Jesus’s ministry and it is His message to us. What happened in Sri Lanka was not the first and unfortunately it will not be the last act of hate that will result in pain and bloodshed, but how we respond could change things. If all those voices crying out for unity and love and peace were actually heard, minds could be changed, hearts healed and lives saved. We could go from having so many black marks across this human existence and start seeing real truth and community as God intends.
Jesus was hung on a cross after being beaten and humiliated and cut and stabbed and pierced. Death was eminent and He was facing a darkness that none of us could ever know as all of our sins were about to be placed on Him. And what did He say, ”Father, forgive them.” Pure love. All He wanted and all He wants is for us to be in unity with Him and each other. We don’t always have to agree and we don’t always have to believe the same stuff and we don’t always have to understand one another, that’s not what He asked us to do. We were commanded to love Him, ourselves and each other. True unity, true community and true relationship and not only in the body of Christian believers but in the children of God. There was no stipulations about only loving people at your own church, or only those of your own faith or only the people in your own backyard. He made it clear in everything He said and everything He did, we are meant to love, and that extends to all. We are all God’s children and we are all seeking that kind of love, acceptance and community.
I’m praying for you. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your story, and I don’t know what you believe, but I’m praying for you.
What do you expect from God? Don’t gloss over this question. Don’t answer right away. Stop. Think. Think again. Then, say it out loud. Don’t answer with a pat answer. When you said it, did it sound natural? Did it sound sincere? Did it feel real to say it?
We all have expectations of every single person or in our lives. We have expectations of our lives. We expect our spouses to be faithful, supportive and helpful. We expect our kids to obey, eat their vegetables, clean their rooms and play the sport we did. We expect our friends to listen and agree with us. We expect our parents to be perfect and mighty. We expect our dreams to come true. We expect so much during our lives. We are expectation machines.
I was having a conversation today with my mom on my way to church. We were reflecting on yesterday. Yesterday was hard for me, I was feeling the weight of all the shit that had happened to me lately. I spent a lot of time yesterday in a bad place mentally. And some of that was because of my expectations of my life and of God. I expected my life to be very different at this point. This is a long-standing expectation, from way back in high school when I had to write one of those “where will you be in 10 years” type letters. At an early age people ask us what we expect to be when we grow up. The expectation that is put on us from that point is that we are going to become something. We have to accomplish something great. That’s a heavy burden on a kid. And I think it’s even heavier because it starts to define us. Our expectation for our lives and expectation of those people around us, those define us and how we think about the world and our place in it . Yesterday I felt that weight, both the expectations put on me and the expectations I put on me and others.
Back to my conversation with my mom...She was talking about how God is faithful and He will come through for me. Something clicked in my brain when she said “He will come through for me.” It dawned on me that I had an expectation for Jesus to step in and do something. Why? Why do I expect Jesus to bring me a job? Why am I expecting Him to do something right now in my life? Am I not grateful for what He has already done? Am I just consistently putting burdens on Him and not really experiencing what I have? A lot of things started running through my brain.
Now, please do not get me wrong. Jesus did promise that He would provide for all of our needs. I am not suggesting that Jesus is not going to bring me a job. My concern is that I’m putting a weight on our relationship that shouldn’t be there. I don’t need to be standing here waiting for Jesus to bring me a job. What happens if I don’t get one or it doesn’t work out the way I expected? Will I see Jesus as if He failed? Is our relationship about my expectations? Where is my focus in our relationship?
Back to my point earlier about people and expectations. I have a son. I had expectations of my son. I still have expectations of my son. I expected him to go to school, I expected him to follow the rules, I expected him to respect me. I expected too much. Our relationship is on very rocky ground. One of the things he said to me more than once was that I expected too much of him. I thought I was being reasonable, he didn’t. I put a weight on him to conform to me, to my standards. I don’t know if that was right or wrong, but I know it was one of the driving factors in our broken relationship. Expectations carry a great deal of weight. When he couldn’t fulfill my expectations he pushed me away and I got angry and our relationship broke apart. Instead of just living in the relationship and loving him, he and I could not fulfill each other’s expectations and so our relationship became all about our disappointment over those expectations.
I was reminded tonight of my expectations of God many years ago. My sister was sick, cancer. Ten months I put everything into a belief that God would heal her. But, it was my expectation, not my conversation. I put weight on our relationship instead of actually having a relationship. God needed to put up, that was it. Conform to my expectations, heal my sister, that was our relationship at the time. I didn’t take any other consideration as a possibility. When she died I was shattered and my relationship with God...shattered. I was so focused on what I wanted God to do, I completely missed what God had done, what God was doing.
More than 20 years later I find myself again in a painful situation where the things of this world are not doing what I want. My expectations are not being met. Yesterday, I faced that and that weight took me into a deep and dark place. Today, I realized I was doing it all wrong. It’s not about what I expect from God or myself or the world, it’s about what I have. It’s about what’s already happened. It’s about being present now. Truly, it’s about being.
Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people expected Jesus to rise up and tear down the government and become King. They didn’t like the oppression from the Roman empire and expected Jesus to do something about it. But that is not why He came. He did not come to fulfill their expectations. No, He was looking towards something much more eternal. He came to establish a personal relationship with us. And to do that, He had to die a painful and horrible death on the cross. Their expectations were shattered when He fulfilled His.
I’m not gonna lie, I still have expectations of people and things in my life and God. But, I have a new perspective about how to approach those things and not allow them to define my relationships and my life. My expectations are just guidelines or hopes, but they aren’t the relationships and they aren’t the experience. I want to remove the weight of expectation and live free. To truly live my life, I need to be present, I need to be in the moment. I want to think eternally, and I want to think moment to moment. I want to be fully here while embracing the eternity that God has for me. Whether the job comes or not, I will be where God wants me to be because I will be present with Him.
So, I ask again, what do you expect from God?
I’ve been thinking today about talents. Why were we given talents? What purpose do they serve? I spent a good portion of my afternoon and evening using my talents to help my niece promote her talents. I myself am in the process of building a website that will feature a few of my talents, with the help of another niece and her talents. We’ve all been gifted with something, whether it’s artistry or personality or a great smile, we all have some gifts and talents. What I realized today is that our talents are necessary not just to improve our lives but for the benefit of others. I now theorize that utilizing our talents for others is the point of our gifts and life itself. “Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others,” stated Kallam Anji Reddy, who then went on to concur with my theory, “And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.” The ultimate goal of goals, the purpose, the point of it all, the reason for our being…
Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace.
For a very long time I locked myself away, everything about me kept far from the rest of the world. I was, in many respects, an island, disproving John Donne. Everything about me, all the things that make me special and all the things that make me normal and all the things that just make me, served no purpose whatsoever. I regret that. Looking back at all those years of solitude, pain and loneliness, I recognize how much of my life I let go by and how many opportunities were ignored. I have talents that I was born with, I have gifts that were written into my DNA, I have a calling on my life that Jesus has placed on my soul, and somehow I missed all of that. Well no more, I want to serve God and His people. I want to figure out what my gifts and talents are, beyond the ones in aware of, and figure out how God wants me to use them.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.
What talents do you have? What gifts have been bestowed upon you? How do you use those for the betterment of others? How do you use them for the betterment of yourself? Are you using them at all? Have you thought about what talents lie within you that you’ve yet to discover? We are deeply complex people. God created us to go deep with Him so that He may reveal to us through this journey who we are. We are only so far along, there are many steps ahead and a great deal more to learn. Just imagine for a moment the depths of God’s love for you. It is in the love that He gifted you and He is excited to see what you’ll do with it all. I encourage you to talk to God today about your talents and how they are meant to be utilized.