By Kristen Pungitore
This isn’t what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m honestly really happy with my life. I love how I get to spend my time and the people I get to spend it with. I love my job, the places I get to travel to, and coming home to a dog who is so excited to see me that he tries to bring me four toys in his mouth at once.
But I expected to be somewhere else, doing something else, by now.
I expected, and have always felt called to, a life that involves a husband and a few kids. I imagined, and hoped, that I would be married to a man who I could serve and be served by and that we could begin a life of adventure, love, and service together. At this moment, I couldn’t be further from that.
I say this not to complain or for you to feel bad for me or set me up with your second cousin's’ college roommate (unless of course he’s cute, active, and cares deeply about others), but because I know that the expectations that I placed on my life and, I believe, the desires that God placed on my heart, are important, and they deserve to be recognized and explored, even though it feels frightening and vulnerable.
I also know that I’m not the only one who isn’t in the place they thought they’d be.
In today’s Gospel reading, there are also some failed expectations. Jesus shows up and when the crowds approach him, they seem to be surprised by what they see. They ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Ouch. Not quite what they had in mind for a messiah. Jesus then spends the next few hours doing what He does best. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor (7:22).”
Is this what you were expecting?
Jesus continues talking to the crowd, asking them why, if they were expecting someone in fine garments living luxuriously, they went to the wilderness to find that person? He was not at all what the Messiah that they were expecting was like, and when I read this, I was really struck by how beautiful and characteristic of the way God seems to work that this passage is.
For these people, they did not expect God to show up in the world in the form of a baby, born of an unmarried, poor woman in a manger and visited by shepherds. For these people, they did not expect their Messiah to be the son of a poor carpenter from, of all places, Nazareth. For these people, they did not expect God to be beaten and killed on a cross in front of the world to see. Not at all what they had in mind.
It turns out that the plan that I had for my life, at least so far, isn’t necessarily what God had in mind.
This is not really a groundbreaking realization or confession, but often the tension lies in the relationship between what I know to be true in my prayer, my desire, and my longings, and the reality of what’s in front of me. Advent, and often the Christian life, is about holy waiting and being open to surprise. I know that God works in ways that we don’t expect and I know I must be more open to the waiting and the surprises, but there is still tension. You see, my problem is not that I really want a family and God hasn’t given me that yet. Instead, it’s that I am confident, through my discernment and prayer, that God has called me to a life whose primary goal, ministry, and vocation is a life of marriage and children. These expectations, I believe, are not ones I’ve placed on my life but ones that God has given to me.
Participating in Holy waiting, being open to surprises, and even praying more is not a clear packaged to-do list for making my failed expectations about my life no longer failed.
The Christian life is messy and hard and God often shows up looking not at all what we expected God to look like and we don’t even notice. It’s comforting to know that the early followers of Jesus AND my friends today all struggle with this in some way. I’m not in it alone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristen teaches theology and plans service immersion trips for students at Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland, OH. She enjoys teaching students about the beauty and complexities of Scripture and challenging them to engage the "other" in service in the world. She is in love with community, the outdoors, America's National Parks, and her golden retriever puppy Finn.