When Expectations Meet Reality

expectI have been the pastor of First Christian for over 25 years. During this time period, I have shared in the joys and sorrows of many people. There is an interesting relationship between joy and sorrow. One or the other of two occurs when reality intersects with a person’s expectations.

There was the case with Job who expected only the blessings of God and lamented his plight when he faced some trials: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope. Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again.” (Job 7:6,7)
The problems of life can be like a pebble in a shoe. When it rubs against the tender spot of a dream, our steps are altered and we experience unwanted pain.

When Job’s pebbles turned into boulders, he needed a fresh perspective, so he began to look at his life from a different point of reference: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes… After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:2, 5,6,10)

While it is a bit of a cliché, there is a mountain of truth in the statement: What doesn’t make you bitter makes you better. I think this was the mindset of Paul when said: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10)

The truth of life is this:
• Whatever you buy can be broken.
• Whatever you say can be twisted into a lie and misspoken by another person.
• Whatever you do can be perceived by someone as evil or a power grab.
• Whenever you go somewhere, there is the chance of getting lost.
• Wherever you live there will be some Goliath who is a challenge to you.

Like it or not, the potential of disappointment lives in the shadow of life. Kay Arthur has said: “The disappointment has come—not because God desires to hurt you or make you miserable or to demoralize you or ruin your life or keep you from knowing happiness. He wants you to be perfect and complete in every aspect, lacking nothing. It’s not the easy times that make you more like Jesus, but the hard times.”

During difficult times, we should remember that, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Rom. 5:5)

How’s Your Day?

cartAs I was going through a checkout lane, I asked the clerk: “So how’s your day going so far?” Admittedly, I expected the usual reply: “Oh, okay” or perhaps an “under the circumstances, fine.”

I really did not expect a blow-by-blow very detailed account of her life over the past 48 hours, but that is what she gave me; but, since I asked the question I needed to listen. Evidently, she had needed someone to listen for quite some time.

As I thought about my reaction to this lady, I reflected on the characteristically keen observations of Jesus. In Matthew 9, Jesus “saw the crowds, and He was moved with compassion for them because they were hurting and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

I wondered to myself: Was I moved with compassion or curiosity? Was my question one of genuine concern or complacent kindness?

Far too many times, I think I make the mistake of hurriedly looking through those who are in need, while Jesus lovingly looked deep down inside a person to see not just their wants by also their wanting.
• He saw the potential of Peter when everyone else thought he was a failure.
• He witnessed to a prostitute when others testified of her moral failures.
• He embraced sinners who were guilty of a myriad of sins, while others looked down on them with disdain.

When I left the store, I smiled at the young lady, and I said: I hope the rest of your day goes a little better. She returned the smile, and she looked as though her heavy load was a little lighter. Why? Simply because I did nothing more than take the time to just listen to her story.

I think Paul got it right when he said: “As we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).”

A Worthy Lesson

In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks in her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks. ‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’ ‘No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’ She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom. Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

In 2006, Cothren was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year for the State of Arkansas.

As an end note to this article, I must say none of this is original to me. I was fortunate enough to have a friend send it to me as an email, and I think it is a worthy lesson to share.