This post was written by Cera Talamantes, a member of the INCM Blog team.
The banner was hung, the flyers had been passed out, and I walked around the room making sure every activity, gift bag, and sign was perfectly in its place. Everything sparkled and the excitement filled the space as we awaited our coming guests.
We were hosting an event and had high expectations of what amazing things would happen through it.
As time passed, only a handful of attendees showed up. Disappointment flooded as all the planning and work that had gone into this event flopped. We gave extra love to those who came and when they left, they were blessed with goodies that were now leftover from the missing attendees. Feeling at a loss, we cleaned up and put away activities and décor that were never touched.
In the days to come, an unsettled feeling set in, a mix of disappointment, sadness, frustration, and confusion.
Where did we drop the ball? Did we not communicate it enough? Was the theme ultimately just lame?
It was hard not to take it personally as I processed through all these thoughts and feelings. I wrestled with God as I thought, “Why didn’t anyone show up? Why didn’t you nudge people to come?” A lot of expectations had been put on this event and the outcome was the opposite of what we had hoped.
A few months passed, and we were at the close of CPC22, where I was riding a spiritual wave of refreshment and eagerness to run towards what God had next. But as I talked with other leaders, a few of them had feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration, and confusion similar to what I experienced previously at the floppy event, as they reflected on their week.
“Why didn’t God show up? I really needed Him to give me clarity on ‘this’ this week.”
“I came exhausted and am feeling even more exhausted because I was expecting to find rest and now feel more overwhelmed just knowing what I’m going back to.”
God’s nudging to dig deeper into expectations became even more apparent in these conversations.
Be it in ministry, leadership, our relationships, or just in general, we set expectations and have strong beliefs that they will happen or God will make them happen when we want them to happen. But as we’ve all experienced, that’s not exactly how it works.
As the Lord always does in one way or another, He dropped truth on me, and my heart hasn’t been the same since.
See, I realized that all my expectations had been wrongly focused. While I had hoped that ultimately the event would be memorable, it wasn’t for the right reasons we wanted it to be remembered. This was the first of a few encounters with God where ‘expectations’ and I would be going head-to-head.
When we place expectations on ourselves, others, or even on God, we can make an idol out of the expectation and lose the ability to see with open eyes and hearts where God is already working in ways beyond what we could imagine.
I had expected, because I thought it was an awesome event, that everyone and their neighbor would be flooding through the door and would talk about it for years to come. Leaders might have come with expectations at CPC to receive an answer presented to them with clarity and confidence in specific areas they had been struggling with, and instead felt disheartened in the silence. Or maybe you have expected someone to show up in one way or another, and they just weren’t there.
When I think of expectations, I think of those in the Valley of Elah being taunted by a literal giant expecting relief, or the overwhelming feeling of not having enough as the disciples looked over thousands and held a few loaves and fish. Or the expectations those who followed Jesus had, and the feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration, and confusion as they watched their Lord die on the cross.
The world has done a great job of creating what our expectations should be, which leads to feelings of being defeated when our expectations aren’t met. God was still working in those moments with a lasting impact, but we tend to focus energy solely on the expectation rather than what God was working on.
When we rightly expect that God is at work even when we can’t see it, there is room for us to know that God will meet our expectations in His will and timing.
I see this when I remember the stories of God’s Word. We see an unlikely hero arise from the least as David defeats all expectations and takes down Goliath. The disciples expected Jesus to turn the masses away as they realized how underprepared they were (at least in their minds), but instead, He performed a miracle and fed them all. And Jesus defied all expectations when He rose again and showed us what it means to truly defeat evil with love.
My prayer has been that the only expectation I set is earnestly seeking how God consistently does the unexpected. I pray that He gives me the ability to keep my eyes and heart open to see and receive His grace and abundant love.
May you know this to your core as well.
Cera Talamantes has served in ministry for over a decade, volunteering in different areas but was called most to preschool and children’s ministry. Cera and her husband, Joseluis, have two incredible kids. Their family loves spending time together making lasting memories and having crazy Uno game nights.