Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Joyful Expectation

Two things I try to avoid in life is getting my hopes up and change. The truth is, I get pretty disappointed with disappointment.

My secret plan is to silently expect the worst and set my expectations low. Even though I can expect and pray for good things for others, I just struggle with doing it for myself. I can’t believe I’m admitting that – but it’s true.

A few months ago in our house church, we studied this passage.

Our house church

Romans 12:9-13 (The Message)

9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

In our house church we use the Discovery Bible Study model – which ends with the question, “After reading these verses – how will you change?” The idea is – let’s not just read the Bible, let’s decide how we are going to tangibly obey what we just read.


I used to be able to sit in church, hear a sermon and think “That was GREAT! Somebody should really start doing that!” Now at church, we read a passage, have a lively discussion and then each decide how we are PERONALLY and SPECIFICALLY going to change. Then we tell each other what we decided. It’s painful! Have I mentioned I don’t like change?


If you’ve known me for any length of time you might think, “Well – she changes her hair and it appears she has changed her continent recently – she MUST like change.” But this is misleading. I don’t like every day change that means I’ll have to do something differently.

It’s very inefficient (efficiency is one of my MOST favorite things). I want to learn how to do something well – and then just keep doing it FOREVER that same way. I don’t change my desktop graphic, I don’t rearrange my furniture, I don’t like to upgrade my cell phone. I even resist a new television series (back when I had television) – it just seems like a lot of work to get interested in a whole new set of characters and plot line. You see my point - it’s putting it mildly to say I resist change.

So after reading that passage about being “cheerfully expectant”– I realized I had to change. Even though I can do it for others, I really don’t “cheerfully expect” at all for myself. In fact, I PURPOSELY don’t joyfully expect. That night God showed me how wrong I am.

So, my “I will” statement was…”I will have joyful expectations.”

Bethany, a friend in our house church, asked me a few weeks ago, “How’s that going with joyfully expecting?”

Julie and Bethany

I said, “Yes, I think that’s a really good idea…but I still don’t want to.”

She said, “Julie, how much would your life change – if you really did ‘joyfully expect’ good things?”

Hmmm…how much would it? I began to realize, if I joyfully expected good things, even if bad things happened, I would just continue to expect God to work it for good. Isn’t that in the Bible somewhere?

I thought I would be changing Africa – but as it ends up – Africa is changing me.

So the 2 things I avoid – high expectations and change – are pretty much the two things I am choosing to embrace at this moment. Church isn’t for us something that happens once a week, it’s something that happens throughout the week as we live in community. That means I see people almost every day that know how God is working in my life. They’ll actually say, “How are those joyful expectations going?”

I can’t get away from it!

So I am choosing to joyfully expect good things – joyfully expecting God to show up and somehow work out all these messes for good. And there are A LOT of messes.  Real relationship with real people is messy...poverty is messy...township life is messy.

So now, when I need to make a decision or choose my attitude, I’ll ask myself, “Julie, what would you do if you were joyfully expecting good things from God?”

He loves to do GOOD things! I know this!  I'm expecting it!

Next time you see me – ask how my “joyful expectations” are going!