I have another confession to make: I am a book peeker. I’m not sure if there is an official name for this practice, but when I am reading a book for the first time and the plot has thickened to that nerve-wracking suspenseful climax where I honestly can’t imagine it ever resolving, I skip ahead to the ending. Once I know that everything will be okay in the end, I can take a deep breath and continue with the story to find out how it gets there.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to talk to past versions of myself. (Preferably in a blue phone booth with a British extra-terrestrial.) There have been so many times in my life when things went terribly wrong, leaving me hurt and disappointed. During these times, my life could have been radically changed with the simple knowledge that everything will be okay. Of course, anyone who has ever been discouraged has heard this as a well-intentioned platitude, but what if we really believed it? What if I could tell the heart-broken version of myself that some day in the not-so-distant future I will feel alright again? What if I could tell the burnt-out frustrated teacher version of me that next year you will love your job and get two days a week to sleep in? (I’m not kidding, it’s awesome.) How much different would my life have been with this knowledge that I now possess?
I don’t know about you, but for me, 2013 has been a year when my expectations haven’t lined up with reality. I like to think of the scene in “500 Days of Summer” when you see the side-by-side comparison of expectations and reality, which end up being quite different. When things don’t turn out the way I expect, I start to cling to my expectations. I clench my fists around my own ideas, and become angry when things don’t work out the way I planned.
There have been so many times this year that I wish I could have just opened up my hands and let go of my expectations. I wish I could have trusted that even after letting go, everything will be okay.
I just finished reading Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt. In this book, she tells the story of how she and a singer/songwriter friend gave up their jobs and sold nearly everything they had to go on a road trip to all 50 states. Throughout the memoir, she talks a lot about her moments of doubt, her fears, and the times that giving up everything didn’t seem worthwhile. Near the end of the book, she talks about the events that happened after the trip, including eventually meeting her husband through a blog post she wrote – something she couldn’t have even imagined before it happened. This stuck out to me:
“It would be so much easier if we knew these things before we took the leap, wouldn’t it? It would make it so much easier to jump if we knew everything was going to turn out okay. It would be so much easier if we knew exactly how the journey was going to turn out before we started. It would be nicer if we had a budget and a plan, if we knew steps eight, nine, and ten before we started step one. But sometimes I think we have to take the first few steps before the next ones are uncovered. It’s not like God is playing chicken with us; it’s just that He wants us to lean into Him, to trust ourselves a little more and to trust Him.”
When my expectations begin to slip through my fingers, I am continually reminded of the fact that I am not in control. How do we learn to loosen our grip on these things we hold too tightly and trust that God has our best interests in mind? The season of Advent is all about expectation. Not expecting to make more money, or to get married to the man or woman of your dreams, or to always be healthy and worry-free, but expecting Christ to come to earth. This advent season, I am trying to hold onto my own expectations with open hands, knowing that they could be taken away. I am trying to really believe in God’s goodness, knowing that some day I will understand more.
Right now, I am uncertain. Once again, I am finding myself in the beginning of a story I never could have imagined, and it all seems a little scary. I have no idea what will happen in 2014, but I know that I want to love openly, to take chances, and to live without regrets. As much as I wish I could “peek” and know how the story turns out, I would rather live it day-by-day with the knowledge that no matter what happens – even if the world ends tomorrow – everything will be okay. It’s more fun that way, isn’t it?