Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Releasing, Dec 15
Expectations have a way of shaping our perception of reality. And, most of the time we are unaware of our expectations. We wear expectations like a pair of glasses that filter out what we don’t want and lock in on what we do.
Most people missed the entrance of Jesus into the world because He came in a very unexpected way. He was born in a feeding trough for animals in a cave behind an inn for travelers. It was very uneventful. In the same way, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as an adult was equally unexpected.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5)
Most would have expected the King to come on a horse (a symbol of victory and power). Additionally, the birth of a King, one would think, would be in a royal family with pomp and circumstance. There were actually rumors throughout Jesus’ life that he was born illegitimately.
Today, we can miss the work and presence of God in our lives because we expect. We expect that God would work in this way or that way. It might be that we don’t expect suffering. In fact, we expect “blessing” that looks like ease and pleasure and good times. Then, when suffering is present, we have no way of seeing God at work. Or, it could be that we expect people to treat us a certain way and when they don’t, we can’t imagine that God could be in it. The list could go on, but expectations have a way of blurring our vision. Further, they can shift our hearts to a dark place. Gerald May made the observation that “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” Our hearts don’t see what they want to see and consequently move into a place of bitterness.
Do you find yourself bitter or resentful about anything in your life? Notice the counsel of 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” How do we humble ourselves? By trusting God with our anxieties. The issue is not the bitterness (the need to humble oneself) per se but the anxiety underneath it. Anxiety is the internal struggle created when expectations don’t match experience.
Releasing expectations is essential if we are going to move into all that God desires for us. Anxiety has a way of shrinking our hearts so that there is not room for God. Physically, we may even feel muscle tension or shortness of breath. As we release expectations, our hearts expand and are able to hold whatever is and however God is involved. Meister Eckhart observed: “God is not attained by a process of addition to anything in the soul, but by a process of subtraction.” As we subtract expectations, we suddenly have room for God. We don’t do this by trying to control our anxiety and expectations but by “releasing” them (“casting all your anxieties”). We can do this because He cares about us. We can let go because He has plans and ways that are loving and gracious and wise and perfect.
Expectations are best discerned by looking at our anxieties. Spend a few minutes prayerfully asking: “what am I anxious about?” Then, consider: what are the expectations underneath that anxiety? Once you’ve identified the expectation, release it as you simply pray: Father, I know you care so I let go of my grip on this version of reality. Meditate on 1 Peter 5:6-7 and repeat this exercise as you are able throughout the day.
Father, I admit that I am a bundle of paradoxes. I want to live in You alone. I confess this is my deepest desire and yet I have other desires. Today, give me the courage to let go. Give me the strength to repent. Give me eyes to see those places of strength to which I cling that I might release all to You. Thank you for Your patience and grace and leading in my life. Enlarge my heart. Amen.