The banner which hung from the second-floor railing of the quaint beachfront motel proclaimed:
“ No expectations, only desires.”
The greeting set the tone and theme for the summer beach project to which I committed between my third and fourth year of college. For 8 weeks, I was with students who represented a wide range of backgrounds and aspirations coming together to work and worship under the banner’s cover.
The theme was the foundation of our mission: Love God and love others into His kingdom.
The bold mission easily translated into how to live the rest of our lives.
In this new year, I am claiming the statement, “ No expectations, only desires” as a replacement for unattainable resolutions. The change is a quest to procure my heart’s desires that feel more relatable, attainable, and less prone to failure.
When I considered my heart’s desires for myself and loved ones, I looked through the lens of hope and stumbled upon a new spiritual discipline. With practice, I want to remove deeply entrenched negative habits and focus on positive, hopeful, growth-promoting promises.
This is my New Year’s discipline: To look for two things when I read God’s Word. The first is to find one attitude/emotion/expectation to resist, reject, or release, and the second is to find one blessing/hopeful message/desire to embrace.
For example, after reading about Joseph’s imprisonment in Genesis 39, I found what I was looking for in verse 21:
“The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”
On a post-it-note, I wrote: I will reject the things which imprison me and embrace God’s kindness and favor. Then I dated the note and put it in a small container labeled “ Bucket of Hope” which I will revisit at the close of 2018.
It is a simple practice of daily gathering truth in order to expose the enemy’s lies. I will apply the truths in my children’s lives, as well, by using them to guide for my prayers for them. In this discipline, I am releasing expectations and embracing my heart’s desires.
Sadly, a new year doesn’t mean last year’s circumstances changed. If you’re like me, you awoke January 1st with the same people in your life and the same trials trailing behind.
New beginnings are always possible but often come with a price. In our messy brokenness, the cost is dropping expectations and embracing new approaches to harsh realities.
Every new year carries with it the potential for new dilemmas, challenges, or hurdles that shake us to our core. Thankfully, each situation has the power to teach us something new about ourselves when we institute the practice of releasing expectations and embracing the desire to find hope in the midst.
Imagine the dilemma when a child exposes a struggle with their sexual orientation contrary to the family’s belief system. Resisting the expectation of their remorse and repentance frees us to love them in the moment and embrace the truth from God’s Word: “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1Cor. 13:4)
Or consider the challenge if the new year includes an unplanned pregnancy announcement from one of our children. Our dashed expectations of making good choices can crush us enough to make us buckle under the pressure. But tuning our hearts into God’s Word reminds us to embrace the truth: “ Children are a heritage from the Lord…” (Ps. 127:3)
And maybe the ultimate hurdle we’ll need to overcome in the new year is hearing the words, “Mom, I don’t believe in all that God-stuff like you!” Resisting the urge for a quick fix sends us into a season of throwing away the high expectations we once held and taking hold of a new mindset to guide us in a new direction: “ …he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)
Resisting, releasing, or rejecting unmet expectations unleashes the power to produce a positive ending from a negative beginning.
Daily attempts to accept the unthinkable, unchangeable, and uncomfortable events which lovingly pass from God’s hands into ours fills us with the capacity to see our true heart’s desire.
Resisting our natural inclination toward expectations and embracing what we wholeheartedly desire is a tangible way to live a more hopeful, faith-filled new year.
While we wait under God’s banner of truth, we can welcome the new year with all its dilemmas, challenges, and hurdles waiting to burst forth, knowing we have the courage to reject unhealthy expectations and find beauty in the hope of our heart’s desires.
“ May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation and in the name of God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions. “ (Psalm 20:4-5, ESV)
Under what banner are you choosing to live in 2018?
Will you let me know what you are resisting and embracing this year so I know how to pray for you?
Waiting with you,