Expectations

It’s a heavy word, representing a stringent kind of hope. Expectations reflect a mind choosing a certain set of outcomes and leaving little space for any other possibilities. Expectations can bring excitement and anticipation, but they can also lead to frustration and claustrophobia. Expectations set boundaries and limits, providing both freedom and the lack thereof. Expectations control the people pleaser and the perfectionist.

Expectations are a normal part of the human existence, but the cynical part of me wonders if they entered the world when sin did. (Theologically, they probably existed since Creation.)

The tricky thing about expectations is that they’re like assumptions. You don’t usually know you have them until they’re proven wrong.

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If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably sensed animosity between me and expectations. Why then have I taken it as my word for 2022? I wasn’t even looking for a word for 2022.

The answer is simple. I’m tired of unnamed and unmet expectations controlling how I feel about the world. I’m tired of the expectations I place on myself shaming me when I fail to reach them. I’m tired of the expectations I sense from and project onto other people keeping me from taking the risks of faith that I feel God whispering into my soul. And I’m beginning to think that my expectations of God are too small; I don’t really expect Him to come through, so I don’t ask in faith.

I can almost hear some of you talking back. Doesn’t God have expectations of us? Isn’t it a good thing to set goals? How will you know if you made progress if you have no expectation of what progress will look like? What are you saying? You’re going to expect things from God but not from yourself?

And to answer those questions. Yes, God does and should have expectations of me: His standard outlines the way for me to live abundantly. Yes, it is a good thing to set goals, to outline my expectations, and then reflect on whether or not I made progress. Yes, I will keep expecting things of God, and yes, I will keep expecting things of myself.

The key here lies in two adjectives “unnamed” and “unmet.” Let me tell you a story.

The second weekend of January, I had the privilege of going to Pennsylvania to hear two songs I composed sung. Leading up to the weekend, there were a lot of things I wasn’t sure about. When would I travel down and with whom? Where would we stay? Would I feel awkward, since I don’t know many of the people? Are my songs actually as sing-able as I think they are? Will I be able to make changes to how the conductor is leading them? Will anybody connect with the music? What if it doesn’t sound like what I expected it to sound like in my head?

Then there were the questions from other people. How are you expecting to feel when you hear them sung? What are you expecting to do all day when the group is practising?

I knew that I wouldn’t know the answers to a lot of those questions until lived them. I had heard from published authors that the day their manuscript was accepted was actually more of an emotionally exciting day than the day their book was launched into the world.

Now, folks, you gotta understand. When I found out my two pieces were accepted I was too excited to do anything but sit in my desk and smile and voice message a few people who care about me. For half an hour. With all my checking staring at me.

Facing all those questions, and hearing the word “expectations” ringing in my ears, I wrote this pep talk in my journal.

Receive the gift that is with open hands. Don’t let expectations rob reality.

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Notice, I didn’t say, “Don’t have expectations.” I went into the weekend with a few.

  • I thought of a few questions to talk about on the eight hour drive, but I also made the choice to simply respond to the other person. If they wanted to talk, I’d talk. If not, that would be fine also.
  • I would show up to the practices in good time. I would have all the sheet music in my binder so I could study it as I listened if I wanted to, but I also brought along some grading in case I got bored.
  • I would expect that in the repertoire there would be songs that were more artistically beautiful, songs that were more simple, songs that would connect more deeply than mine; but that if my music in anyway spoke to another person, than I’d be grateful.
  • I wouldn’t expect myself to feel anything when I heard my songs sung. I’d just accept the emotions as they came.
  • I would wait and listen for the space to give input into how I wanted the songs sung. I had a few things I really cared about and a few things that I was willing to let go.

I had a wonderful weekend. The drive down did feel long, especially at about the five hour mark when my body wanted to get up and walk around, but I also had some lovely and relaxing conversation.

I showed up at the practices and quickly realized that not many composers had shown up, but I decided that instead of worrying about whether that made me weird, I’d just sit and listen and try to learn all I could. It was so much fun to watch a composer and choir fine tune all the music. (Pun fully intended.) I’ve been on the performing end, so I could relate with what they were doing, but my position was a lot more relaxing.

What did I feel when I heard my songs? Contentment, quiet joy, but not surprise–they sounded like what I’d expected. What did surprise me was how much fun it was to watch other people take ownership of a song that up until then had been a solo enterprise. (Another pun. Sorry.) I was reminded again that in the end, we are all given a work to do. We do it, other people receive it and add to it, but it is God Who multiplies it.

It was also a delight to meet the other composers and realize that I’m not the only one who feels a bit shy about it all.

Sounds all fun and wonderful, doesn’t it? And it mostly was, but then something unexpected happened.

Sunday evening, three friends and I were going to ride together to the concert, but then a change of meeting places, a dead phone which meant no GPS or way to communicate, and suddenly there was me in one car and them in the other. I’ll confess I spent the first twenty minutes feeling just plain sorry for myself. I’d looked forward to letting someone else do the driving and chatting. Instead, I found myself trying to add tomato to my packed-lunch sandwich while navigating my car down a highway as darkness fell. (Don’t worry. By then, my phone was charged and GPS was activated.)

I chewed the sandwich ferociously, but gradually I realized that I was only stealing my own joy. I forced myself to breathe deeply and adjust my expectations. Instead of conversation, I was being given some alone time to recharge, which I needed more than I realized. I would still arrive in good time. I didn’t have to fume like a three-year-old.

I turned out to be perfectly on time. I wanted to find a restroom to freshen up, but they’re rather hard to locate in old cathedrals. I saw someone come out of a door, so I went into it and found myself winding up a steep set of stairs. I emerged into a storage room of sorts.

Through a door to my right, a lady appeared and cried, “Oh, good, I need someone to go get someone that can tell me who the soloists are and where the soloists are standing.”

I blinked back surprise. “I can tell you that. I was at all the practices anyway.”

“Oh, good,” she took my hand. “What’s your name?” I glimpsed her husband behind her, maneuvering a video camera.

“I’m Yolanda.”

He came towards me, “Yolanda. Is it Yolanda Lichty?”

I nodded.

“I was wanting to meet you. We’ll have to talk later.”

Then I proceeded to tell her when there were soloists, who they were, and where they stood.

But do you know the best part? While I stood there, the choir sang both of the songs I’d written. While I’d hear them again later that night, the sound from that little balcony alcove in that moment was more majestic than it would be from my seat close to the choir.

So about expectations, I won’t get it right every time. I’m expecting to have to wrestle with unmet expectations this year like any other year. Still, somehow I think that taking the time to name my expectations will remind me to ask the most important question, “What is God expecting of me in this moment?” It’s His standard that matters.

How do you feel about expectations? Whose expectations influence your decisions? What expectations do you have for yourself? What unmet expectations are you holding? I recognize that these are personal questions, but if you’re brave enough to share. I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or send me an email.

2 Comments on “Expectations

  1. What an exciting and beautiful time for you! I’m glad you were able to just take and enjoy what came with your songs and the whole experience. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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