It’s that time of year…back to school, back to a different routine than the one summer allowed. And with this season of fresh starts grows a long list of expectations. I’m a planner, and maybe you are too. But whether or not you enjoy schedules and routines, I’ll bet you have you own set of expectations about any new season of life. Here’s the thing about our expectations: they have the tendency to set us in opposition to the world, others, and God when they aren’t met.
We instinctively know this, yet the desire for the elusive security they offer prevents us from learning from our past dedication to them. When life and the behavior of others goes contrary to what we have envisioned, we are disappointed — sometimes rightly so. But even when our disappoint is justified, reasonable, where does that leave us? Expectations are of no ultimate good to us unless they are fashioned by love, by the one who is Love.
What does that look like though?
I came across a great quote the other day from St. Teresa of Calcutta:
“Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness.”
Kindness. Mercy. These fruits of the Spirit may keep our expectations from ruling our emotions. When our highest daily goal is to extend kindness and mercy to each life we contact, then we will have a plan for our reaction when all other plans have fallen apart. But I’m learning that authentic kindness and the extension of mercy toward others only comes from humility. Humility recognizes our own brokenness, the realization that we too are incapable of meeting expectations. Mercy is possible and abundant when we don’t see people as “other,” when we have a clear perspective that we are all equally in need of mercy.
I think another important mental shift is to see people, particularly the ones placed in our daily lives through divine providence, as our primary mission in life. Loving people — this is our number one job description. It is more challenging for some personalities than others…not because some personalities are less loving, but because they are quite aware of tasks that need to be accomplished. (Ahem. I might know a little something about this.) If we are too focused on the game plan, on how things ought to play out, then we miss the opportunity for calling an audible. Basically, we miss an opportunity to show love, extend mercy, and (as St. Teresa said) have people come away from you better and happier.
Thank goodness for the grace of a new day. Scripture reminds us, “His mercies are new every morning.” So that means that our mercy can be renewed every morning as well. It’s never too late to let go of what we thought we wanted and accept what God is placing before us in that moment. It won’t be our inclination at first, but we won’t regret showing mercy, kindness and love. And after awhile, we will find ourselves less disappointed by unmet expectations, less inconvenienced by the opportunity to “be the living expression of God’s kindness.”
Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey