“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.” (Psalms 42:6)
Brokenness. There is a direct relationship between my brokenness and my expectations.
It amazes me how many times I turn to the Lord when my world seems to be falling apart; and how few are the times I turn to Him when everything seems to be going great! The connection between the two is unmistakable. Our God is the one who meets us in our deepest despair; i.e., broken, contrite, poor in spirit.
In my personal experience, this happens when I have to adjust my expectations that fall into three realms.
First, the most obvious is the physical. My expectation is that I will be the exception to the laws of nature. I can go against the grain and ‘cheat the hangman,’ or ‘beat the odds.’ Recently I have discovered that my 55 year old body will no longer function as it did when I was 21. My expectations about my physical abilities must adjust; but, that transition often comes at a cost. Pressing my body beyond its present tolerances can have lasting effects on places like backs, shoulders and arms. Risks I took as a younger man are now out of the question because I know what can happen when expectations are shattered by reality.
Second, my expectations about myself is challenged. This one is related to the first but is a little different. This one deals with emotional stress. I believe that I can deal with emotional pain and control in a healthy way. In fact, it is when I think that I can dance around the flames of temptations that I have found myself sucked right into the flames of the fire. There are some things that I will never do because, based upon past experience, I might get sucked in once again and pulling out is so, so hard to do. A recent video series by Andy Stanley entitled Guardrails is a great tool for challenging our expectations and assumptions about our limitations.
Third, my expectations about others is challenged. Sometimes I let myself believe the best in some people when wisdom would dictate that I should use more caution. Stated succinctly, people let us down. Usually it is in the smallest things that barely blip on our radar that are easily forgotten, simply forgiven and written off as being human. But, on occasion, there have been the crushing realizations that rock my world so much that I risked falling into despair. Some people do not deserve your trust, faith and confidence; sometimes you recognize those people instantly and take immediate evasive action. Then there are those other times when you let your guard down, look past the red flags and choose to trust and, in the end, your expectations are totally, completely and absolutely decimated beyond repair. Psalms 41:9 talks about the psalmist’s close friend whom he trusted turning against him. Just ask someone crushed in a ‘messy divorce’ or a ‘frivolous lawsuit.’
I’m sure that there are other expectations that can sidetrack us but the end result of all of them is brokenness from the lesser to the greater degree. My expectations were thus-and-so but this is what has happened and now my reality is…not…what…I…had…expected. The striving for predictability and control is an illusion that is sometimes taken to the wall. Sometimes the Lord allows the hedges of protection to fall (cf., Job 1:10). At times like those we will be challenged to learn, in the end, how little control we truly have over our bodies, our emotions or our friends. Our expectations will undergo a realignment through brokenness. Hopefully, after weighing alternatives and considering the anchors of our life, we learn how to live realistically in a world that seems to be designed to challenge our expectations.
Indeed, the man who discovers these principles in life without having to have his hedges pulled down is truly blessed. What we learn in the Christian faith experience is that this state of brokenness is where I should be even when things are going great. For example, it is the ‘poor in spirit’ of Matthew 5:3 who will see the kingdom of heaven. This is not referring to an event; it is referring to a state of being. I believe that it is when we discover our brokenness that we find a God who is willing to meet us there to help us find healing and to restore hope, realigning our expectations to His agenda, His mercies, His control.
There is no other posture that is appropriate before our great Sovereign Lord. As Isaiah 57:15 states: “For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.””