What Did You Expect?
December 1st, 2007 by Sonja

I’ve been reading a lot recently. So I cannot for the life of me remember where I read this. I suspect it was a conversation in The Shack, by William Young, but I can’t be sure of it. In any case, it has grabbed hold of me and I’ve been chewing on it for a good while now. I’ve been enjoying the flavor of it as we approach Advent.

The conversation was about the difference between expectation and expectantly. I should probably try to track it down, but the thought is overwhelming. So I will try to recreate it.

There is a difference between having expectations and living expectantly. For instance, say I have a good friend, one with whom I spend a lot of time laughing and giggling. When we are apart, I live (in part) expectantly that anticipates the next time we will be together laughing and giggling. But because I also know that we are both human, I know that there will be times when we do not laugh and giggle. There might be times when we cry together. But I look forward to the good times together, understanding that there are going to be difficult times too. Things begin to change, on the other hand, if I layer the friendship with the expectation that we laugh and/or giggle a certain percentage of the time that we are together. Or if my friend layers the relationship with an expectation of something else.

Right. So that’s a simplistic and silly sort of example that most people will shoot a lot of holes through. But hopefully you will see the point … the difference between living with expectations and living expectantly.

I looked the definition of expectation up in Merriam-Webster and here is what I found:

1: the act or state of expecting : anticipation
2 a: something expected b: basis for expecting : assurance
c: prospects of inheritance —usually used in plural
3: the state of being expected
4 a: expectancy 2b b: expected value

I looked up expectantly and found this:

1 : characterized by expectation
2 : expecting the birth of a child

and, my favorite from Visual Thesauraus – marked by eager anticipation.

Obviously, the two are quite closely related. But there is a significant difference. I think the difference lies in our usage and in (if you’ll pardon me) our expectation. We all have all sorts of expectations. We rise each morning with the expectation that we’ll see the sunset. We have expectations or standards for our children. We have expectations of our co-workers and co-laborers. We expect that people in certain wage and education brackets will behave with certain manners. We expect that other drivers will drive in certain ways at certain times, especially when we are in a rush. Many of us are not filled with grace for those people who do not live up to our expectations of behavior, particularly when we are pinched for time, or money, or love, or sleep, or any combination of those.

I think we are at the most risk for lacking in grace, for losing God, when our expectations are not being met. We all have them. For some this looks like our hopes and dreams being dashed on the rocks of reality. For some this looks much smaller … a more daily thing. In whatever way it happens, over the many years, hope begins to erode and fade like a cloud of fog burned away by the sun.

Here’s what I’ve been chewing on lately. What if? What if we somehow, someway learned a new way? What if we learned to live each day “marked by eager anticipation” of each moment? I don’t think I’m suggesting that we throw the ropes to wind, never save any money, etc. I am suggesting that we give more of ourselves away … more of our expectations away and begin to live more expectantly as we search out the source of Hope. Real hope. Not small hopes and dreams. But HOPE. And see where that road leads. It may end up being much, much more interesting than the road you expect to be on.


This is the first in an occasional Advent series that I will be doing. I am also participating in an Advent synchroblog series organized by Brother Maynard. Does this now make him Father Maynard? Is he now head of our order? 😀 Cheeky questions for this Saturday morning. I will be the member always writing lines because I’m in trouble, that’s for certain. In any case, here is a list of the other participants. You can also keep track of who is posting when by glancing at the widget in my sidebar that’s entitled “Johannine Advent” … well, you can as soon as Brother Maynard’s blog comes back up this morning (yikes).

4 Responses  
  • Wayne Jacobsen writes:
    December 1st, 20079:48 pmat

    Yes, it was in THE SHACK, by William P. Young, on pages 205-207. It’s one of the big treasures in that book. I have enjoyed living in the expectancy of what God might do in any circumstance, without the burden of having any specific expectation that I think he must fulfill…

  • Peggy writes:
    December 2nd, 200712:13 amat

    Well, I haven’t read The Shack, and I heard this from a wonderful retired missionary four years ago…and she called it living with expectancy rather than expectation.

    With her, I see it more relationally at all levels, but especially as relates to God. I do not have set expectations of what he will or will not do…but I totally embrace with expectancy the outpouring of his cHesed toward me, whatever my circumstance might be.

    So, I guess that means “expectancy” is a cHesed and covenant term that describes our attitude when faith connects with hope. We don’t know what will be, but believe that it will be that which we need to remain faithful…


  • Eric G. writes:
    December 2nd, 20077:47 amat

    Wonderful thought this morning. Am I going through life expecting things to be given to me or am I going through life expectantly looking to give myself away? May the second way be the way for all of us…

    Glad to be on this Advent journey with you…

    Eric G.

  • Adam G. writes:
    December 3rd, 20073:32 pmat

    The trouble with living expectantly is that it has to face the daily grind, and often it doesn’t do well. For several months my hampster wheel was: wake up, go to work, go home, go to second job, go home, sleep. Of course, there was eating and bathing sandwiched in there too, but not much else! This wears at the soul and diminishes any sense of “living expectantly.” In fact, I had few expectations left that were positive.

    Recently I interviewed for a job. Then I was called back for a “working interview.” On both interviews I hit it off really well with the managers and workers. It was all so positive that I began living expectantly. I let go my second job and even packed up my desk. Every day I expected to get the call from my new job, and I dreamed like I hadn’t dreamed in years.

    It’s been over two weeks, though, and I’m having to admit that they aren’t going to call. I’m in a bit of disbelief that I didn’t get the job, apparently, and I’m beginning to feel desperate. I don’t want to go back to living with only expectations, or not even those.

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