I looked at the toilet and cursed at it – told it exactly what I thought. It’s a rather humorous picture in some ways – me standing over a toilet and giving it a piece of my mind. Curse you and your contents. And yet, as cursing is not a regular part of my vocabulary, for me these words revealed the stink in my heart. For a couple of reasons I felt more confident this month that maybe we were finally at last pregnant, but rejection letter #23 was delivered instead.
Tonight I went to a worship night at a family’s home. We sat in the cozy living room, lights dimmed, and worshipped together. I wasn’t feeling particularly low or downtrodden or needy. The past few days had been filled with rewarding work and enjoyable rest. As we listened to the music and sang, I was surprised by God. He met me with an overwhelming sense of His love for me. He seemed to be so very near and reminding me that He loves me so very much. He helped me go beyond just knowing it cognitively tonight to really feeling it in special way. As we sang the words “You are perfect in all of your ways”, I felt my faith stirring up from within me accompanied with joy and a sense of peace. It was special.
During worship I recalled some words that had been spoken earlier this week. A brother in Christ had shared that sometimes delays are His mercy. He was referring to some delays related to another subject entirely, but those words amongst the many that he shared were jumping out in bold print to me. His delays are His mercy. These delays – month after month, cycle after cycle, season after season – are soaked in his grace and kindness. Perspective shift. Stinky heart surrendered and being made new.
I cursed at the toilet that day because I had an expectation that had again not been met. A wise woman of the faith shared this week that there was a season in her life when God told her to release the spirit of discontentment that had grown in her. Release all expectations she had assigned to Him and others around her. Release judgement and criticism. This spoke to me on a few levels, but one being that I have placed expectations on God concerning His timing and means by which to grow our family. I don’t think I consciously drew these parameters of this is how it should all go, but somewhere in my huge brain ;), I had. Should I have these expectations? I believe I should have hope and expectant faith regarding the promises found in His Word, but expectations on how and when He fulfills His promises are not mine to have. Can I let go of these expectations? Cause when the expectation isn’t met, I curse at the toilet. And the toilet has feelings too 😉
Speaking of inanimate objects having feelings – When I was around 7 years old my parents bought me a new bedroom furniture set, so we put my old dresser and desk in the storage shed out back. That dresser and desk were alive in my little 7 year old mind – characters in my playful world, much like the clock and candlesticks in Beauty and the Beast. I missed them and felt bad that they were now stuck in the shed. So, I would go and visit them and talk to them in that dusty, hot dungeon. I’m sure they really appreciated it.
There is a difference between desire and expectation. I never really thought much about the difference until this week. And providentially, the Lord led me to something that was simply perfect for where I am at. Fr. Mark Toups writes:
God made Abram a promise. “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great. … Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:1&5) However, time has passed … a lot of time. Today we read: “Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 16:3) and yet “Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children” (Genesis 16:1).
Big promise, no kids. And, after ten long years of waiting, Sarai takes things into her own hands: “The Lord has kept me from bearing children. Have intercourse then with my maid; perhaps I shall have sons through her.” (Genesis 16:2)
Of course, this gets ugly … quick. Abram sleeps with Sarai’s servant, Hagar. Hagar conceives and immediately Sarai is jealous. Sarai is cruel to Hagar and eventually banishes Hagar into the desert. Yikes, this story started great … how did get to this point?
There is a difference between desire and expectation. Desire is a movement of the soul, an authentic stirring of our heart that many times is merely a cooperation with the desire of God within us. Saint Augustine once remarked “Our deepest desires are God’s desires in us.” The ordered desires within us that move us toward God are from God Himself. Ordered desires are good, very good.
On the other hand, expectation is when we grasp at desire. Expectation is when we construct an image of how and when our desires will come to be. Expectations are never from God.
The month that Manbeast and I began trying to conceive, a young woman spoke a word of knowledge over me. She had just met me and knew nothing about me other than that I was married. She asked me if we wanted children. I said yes. She smiled and said that while our group had been praying, the Lord told her we would have a baby soon. Imagine my elation at this word. And that it was spoken to me the very month we began trying is probably no coincidence. I decided not to get to ahead of myself however, because God’s definition of soon and my definition of soon may look very different. The Lord promised Abraham and Sarai many descendants. They waited 10 years. When she began having expectations of when and how God would bring this to pass is when it all got stinky. She may not have cursed at the toilet, but she certainly took out her angst on her poor servant Hagar.
I try not to have expectations of how and when this will all work out. I try. When I see how it has happened with relative ease for so many around me, expectations of God leap to the forefront of my mind. She only had to ask 3 times for her cookie. Why have I had to ask 23 times and still no cookie?! I know you have plenty of cookies to hand out! Now I shall throw a tantrum.
Sometimes our expectations are highly influenced by what we see around us. Yet, God never delivers gifts in the same box or gift wrap. Each is delivered in its own unique way and in its own special season. Jobs, promotions, habitation, marriage, children, relationships, travels, etc. come delivered His way, His time, His wisdom. Sometimes the enemy finds a doorway in and seeks to intercept God’s good gifts, but His children have authority to tell Him to go. Sometimes our own selves get in the way much like Sarai when she decided to take control of the situation and try and force God’s gift to come.
The key is to stay in the desire and let go of the expectation. Trust that God can only want what is absolutely best for you. Stay with the desire and let go of how or when He will come through for you.
However, most importantly, as you let go of expectation hold on to God. Stay in relationship. Never stop relating. Don’t stop praying. Stay there … trust the process. After all, 4,000 years later, every Christian alive today is a descendant of Sarai … God did come through on his promise.
A couple weeks back the Lord brought me to a willow tree. Not literally, but in my imagination. It was beautiful, but I didn’t know the significance of this picture, for at the time all I saw was the tree. I felt like there was something behind the foliage of the willow tree that I couldn’t see. Then, this evening during worship, I saw Him take me close to the tree. In this vision I was a child again, full of curiosity and limitlessness. As I parted the foliage of the weeping willow, my eyes grew wide with excitement as I saw what the Lord had in store for me. “Holy cow! Really God? For me?!” It was something beyond what I could even imagine; something that made me beam with delight. It brought glory to His name and satisfaction to my soul. I don’t know specifically what was behind the willow tree, but I know the Lord was reminding me that behind the weeping is dancing. Behind the delays is His kindness.
As I type these last few words, I am in tears. The recent themes on my heart and in this blog post have been about His merciful delays, my desires, and letting go of expectation. Just now, as I scrolled to the very bottom of Fr. Mark Toups’s blog post (the one I’ve been quoting), this quote caught my eye and it summed it all up beautifully:
Quote from Pope Benedict XVI:
“St. Augustine, in a homily on the First Letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. ‘By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him].”
― Spe Salvi, no. 33
May we keep asking for the desires of our hearts. May we release the expectations that so often accompany our desires. May we let the delays increase our capacity to be filled by Him.
And if any cursing takes place in the bathroom again, may it only be due to too many lentils. 😉