“Expectations” can be a deep topic. They are the hopes and dreams that consume our minds, but we don’t always dare say them aloud in case they don’t come true. We know God loves us, so we think that means he’ll go with our plans, but we quickly learn that the Potter doesn’t have to listen to the clay. God is the Creator and has the final word.
As a 25-year-old, single girl, I think a lot about plans and expectations. I’m in that time of life where things are a bit unsettled and could shift at any time. But at the end of the day, I still expect the American Dream and the order of college, job, husband, adventure, kids, a different kind of adventure, the end. I expect happiness, and yes, some trials, but things that God will get me through. When I can’t see what’s coming I can at least look back and expect to see how God has worked in my life, and hold on to hope for what he may be doing right now in the shadows.
When I decided on a college to attend, I had expectations of how I thought things would go. I was going to major in Vocal Music because I loved singing and learning about music, and I trusted that God would show me a career with it other than teaching (which I knew was something I was not interested in). I was being a good girl for at least getting a degree and figuring it out as I went.
But then I didn’t get the music scholarship I sent in recordings and auditioned for. I didn’t make the top choir. I didn’t make the second to top choir. Then the director let me in afterwards on what I felt was pity. My voice teacher of four years kicked me out of her studio with a month until graduation and said she was done trying to teach me. It’s a lovely story. Oh, the things we put up with for our passions.
College did not go the way I planned. It was not what I expected. But I do not regret it.
There are all sorts of lessons God teaches us through the struggles. Of course I may wish I did some things differently, but I’m thankful for what I got out of it. God taught me that my faith and my character were of bigger importance to him than my musical talents or achievements. He taught me to look at the bigger picture and let go of things that will not matter in a few days, weeks, or years. Now, over three years later, I can see how God’s plan, though often filled with tears, was better than my dreamy expectations.
I expected someone to tell me what kind of job I should do with music. I got valuable singing and music theory skills that I use as part of my church worship band.
I expected to stay away from teaching. I taught a Vocal Jazz Ensemble in college and have since taught a handful of piano and voice students that bring me so much joy. God presents opportunities and nudges us to try something new that we never saw coming.
I expected to find a way to live abroad after college, doing something exciting and meaningful for a Christian non-profit. Instead, I lived in my childhood room for two years after college while working at my former high school. This was not my plan, but turned into a huge blessing to learn job skills in one of the best possible work environments, surrounded by caring, Christian people.
I may not know where I’m going next or what God has in store, but I know he’s still working.
I imagine this is also what kept Esther going instead of breaking down in fear when she was placed in a position she did not see coming.
The book of Esther is an interesting one, because it is the only book in the Bible where God is never mentioned. Esther is a Jewish orphan who is summoned to the palace by a Persian king to be part of a high stakes beauty pageant, and is ultimately chosen to be the new queen. I’m sure this was not part of Esther’s expectations for how her life would go.
In some ways, the book of Esther is so relatable because we do not hear any direct revelations or signs from God. In other books of the Bible, God does miracles, directs the Israelites, send judges with God’s guidance, tells them how to prepare for battle. But that kind of God can seem so removed from how we view God today. God seems strangely silent in comparison.
So we read about Esther taking one day at a time in the king’s palace, and I imagine her having all kinds of conflicting feelings: living the fancy life while enjoying amazing food and beauty treatments; being unsure when the king could dismiss her (or worse) as not good enough, too this or that, or for no real reason at all; wondering what was happening with her friends or relatives and if she’d ever be together with them again; questioning why God would place her in this position.
But we find out God was putting her exactly where she needed to be to save her Jewish people, before she even knew they’d need saving. God put her in a position of authority and political sway with the king that let her intervene for the Jews, saving them and likely the line of Jesus from their enemies.
When Esther was afraid to appear before the king to tell him of the plot to kill the Jews, her adoptive father Mordecai said to her,
Mordecai trusted that God would deliver the Jews. He knew that if Esther did not step up, God would find another way, use someone else. Mere humans cannot foil God’s will. But he showed Esther how God had set her up in the best possible position to make a difference. He urged her to see the bigger picture of God’s story.
When we look at our expectations and plans it’s often pretty self-centered. Perhaps I will go here, do cool stuff here, work here, have a family here. But we often forget about God’s bigger plan.
How could he be using us to affect eternities?
Maybe our lives feel stuck in an undesirable position, but perhaps God placed you there for a specific reason, to make a difference, to learn something, to set you up for something even better.
While the future is uncertain, we can expect God to use us there.