Confession 417: Finding Boldness in the Face of Underwhelming Expectations

When you accomplished wonders beyond all our expectations;
    when you came down, mountains quaked before you.
  From ancient times,
    no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
    no eye has seen any god but you
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him! Isaiah 64:3-4 (CEB)

sneakers in grass

This is a stupid predicament, I thought to myself as I sat on the edge of a step balancing a 100+ pound lawn mower below me. I was attempting to maneuver our push mower up a series of steep steps from the lower to upper yard. My nine year old helped me up the first few stairs, but stomped off in frustration at the final big push. As he left, I called out in desperation, “Tell your brother to come help!”

If you’ve ever met my eleven year old, you’d understand what a desperate cry this is. G weighs about 60 pounds soaking wet. His arms and legs look like skinny twigs that could snap with the slightest breeze. He also doesn’t like getting his hands dirty…literally.  I had zero expectation of deliverance.

I started scanning the horizon for neighboring lawn care workers. Just as I was thinking I’d have to sit here balancing this mower for the next six hours (admitting defeat and going back down the stairs was not an option), I heard the slow flop, flop, flop of my eldest’s sandaled feet coming down the sidewalk.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked. As I explained the situation, he narrowed his eyes and slowly walked around the mower, sizing it all up. He stopped at the front of the mower. “You want me to pick this thing up and walk backward?” he asked, like it was the most ridiculous suggestion in the world.

“No,” I clarified. “I’m walking backward. Just pick it up and push.”

He looked doubtful, and so was I. G thought for a moment, then slipped his ultra-clean hands under the mower and lifted. The task was finished in thirty seconds. Help came from the most unexpected place–a skinny little boy who’s obsessed with clean hands.

Afterward, as I marveled to him about his extraordinary feat of strength, he admitted that he only lifted the mower because he hadn’t just washed his hands. I didn’t care. It was a triumph. I learned that my son is capable of much more than I ever expected. Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s intelligent, a super reader, creative, kind and compassionate. But I never really think of him as helpful, per se. He didn’t just exceed my expectations, he set new ones.

waiting for sunriseI think a lot of us go through life with limited expectations, either of ourselves or others. We organize ourselves and others in boxes with careful labels attached as to what they can and cannot do. The thing is, we aren’t static beings. We grow and change, evolve if you will, based on circumstance and experience. Our attempt to organize and categorize our abilities and the ability of others is based on a limited perception, and that limited perception leads to inadequate expectation.

We limit ourselves, we limit others and we limit God because we aren’t bold enough to look beyond our limited understanding of the possible.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boldness and possibility the past several months. I’ve come to the realization that, while I believe in God’s power and might, I don’t really expect to see it manifested in my life. My faith has become complacent, tepid. I have underwhelming expectations of God.

And yet, in the deep recesses of my soul, God has been working. A flame has been carefully tended, and God is waiting for me to remove the damper. God has been calling me to give his Spirit free reign in my life, to let go of my underwhelming expectations and look for the great possible that is God.

And so, I’m praying for boldness. I’m praying for an infusion of the Holy Spirit in my life, that great fire that flows through our veins and spills out to others, igniting acts of love, justice and peace. I’m praying for God to accomplish things in my life that can only be done by him and which can only point back to his great work. I’m also praying for God to ignite a fire of expectation and possibility in our congregation, community, nation and world so that others might see his glory revealed.

My challenge for you is to join me in praying for boldness. Ask God for something in your life, in your congregation or in your community that only he can accomplish. And then, be ready. Because God will call you to do things you least expect.

Blessings and Peace,