21 August 2011

Hunkering down, hanging out on the floor...

"Don’t expect to be offered a chair
when you are visiting a place where the chief sits on the floor."
~ W. African proverb ~

I love African proverbs - not only do they often express incredible wisdom, sometimes they are just downright funny. I can easily imagine a version of the one above as a political cartoon... but I don't really like to talk about politics... too much...

So, back to today's point... As I've mentioned before, I've been teaching a literacy class all summer... we've now met together at Mamata's concession somewhere between 50 and 60 times. Every day, she has pulled out a large, comfortable cushiony chair for me to sit in, with a tea table right in front of it. She then seats herself on the ground - and yes, she is 70ish years old. What usually ends up happening is that I'll sit in the chair for two or three minutes while I pull my things out and then I move down to the ground so that I'm on the same level as my students and don't use the chair the rest of the time... but it is still always out on the terrace, waiting for me, to show respect, honor, welcome and appreciation for what I am doing - helping her learn how to read.

However, if I showed up and there was no chair on the terrace, I would certainly not be offended. I don't expect her to go to all that effort for those very few minutes that I actually sit in the chair before needing to move to her same level to facilitate instruction. I do get the idea, however, that she has encountered some who would expect royal treatment when visiting her concession.

I was checking out my favorite blog recently, and read this. We expect that if we are obeying, serving God, life will go well - well as humanly defined. We expect the rebellious to suffer hard and painful consequences. We expect that if we work hard, we will succeed - or that those who benefit from our work will at least acknowlege our efforts and say thank you. We expect those who refuse work to not succeed and often, in fact, to lose what they do have. The Bible does teach that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap... that a tree is known by its fruit... that God will reward and repay. It is just that somewhere deep inside we're convinced we're entitled to see the meting out of consequences and recompense. Like Thomas, I prefer to walk by sight and not by faith and in that, I've got it backwards

This isn't the first time I've shared a bit about what God's showing me regarding my expectations and how easily I allow my expectations to lead me down a sinful path.... I can name several recently dashed expectations (ones in which I actually felt pretty secure and sure so didn't even realize I was "counting" on them until they went unfulfilled) in each of the following relationships:
  1. marriage (makes me ask myself how I've not met his expectations, too)
  2. family (children and extended family)
  3. friendship (nearby and far away)
  4. professional (my many "jobs" outside the home)
  5. self (oh... how I let myself down... but I don't think I want to lower my expectations? Do I?)
That last question has me pondering. I still believe with all my heart that I need to hold my expectations loosely, with an open hand:
  • they may be unfounded...
  • they may be unrealistic...
  • they may be unfair...
  • they may have grown out of untruths...
  • they may be things to which I am unentitled...
  • they are often skewed by ungodly perspectives...
  • they may be unbiblical...
What is the right balance? Hoping... having right expectations... that challenge those around us to become? Expectations that encourage us to continue allowing God to work through suffering, while remaining living sacrifices on the altar? Loosely held dreams for the future? Still striving for Christ-likeness in all areas while at the same time gently trusting God's sovereignty and goodness when hopes are not met, tragedies happen, and what we confidently expected is never seen? Biblically provoking others to good works but not placing crushing burdens of "what I want" on the backs of those for whom I care and work?

What do you think?

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