I am a problem spotter. I spot things that need improving, ways things can be made better and weaknesses in things. I spot something new and exciting and almost immediately want bigger and better. I have a critical eye and often prepare for the worst. I rarely get my hopes up ‘too high’ and I do expect imperfection. That’s me.
Some call my way of thinking pessimistic.
My way of thinking foresees what could go wrong and protects me from nasty surprises. My mind surrounds me with a buffer of low expectation, so that when things aren’t quite right, it’s not as if I allowed myself to expect otherwise.
What a half dose way of living!
I don’t say that to put myself down. I don’t say “isn’t that terrible” to condemn myself or those likeminded to me.
I say it to wake us up.
Sure, people who think like me think that those who are overly hopeful are naive. Unthought through. We see people who daydream through life, open to all the risks of the world, and we’re the type you quietly whisper “could’ve seen that coming” when something in their life doesn’t go to plan. Not to be malicious, not because we don’t care, but because it’s so easy to think people should think the same way as yourself. It’s so easy to criticise hopeful ways of living, when your so used to seeing risk-assessment as the wisest way to live.
The dreamers of this world bring such innovation and life, but that doesn’t eradicate that we can sometimes see them as daft, with heads in the clouds. Again, it’s that arrogant thought pattern, which says “I would never think that way”.
I’m not here saying “all live by the seat of your pants, expect the best and dream big” – that’s so against the way I function as a human, it terrifies me. I’m not writing to say we must all be optimistic dreamers with our thoughts in cloud nine. But I do wonder if some of us, including myself, are out of balance.
The bible mentions again and again the hope Jesus brings; the joy in living expectant of God doing amazing things and the power of faith. It teaches us to trust optimistically in a God who has shown time and again that he comes through for our good. It tells us not that fear or suspicious are our strength, but that the joy that comes from God (which is much deeper than mere happiness) is our strength. The optimistic joy which says “things may not be ok now, but they will”, which acknowledges “God may not be clear right now, but he’s working for your good”, which declares “You may not see a way out, but God will show you a way”.
I’ve found the idea of coming expectantly before God hard these past few weeks. Anxiety has clouded my mind a bit with work and deadlines. The idea of God pulling through and making a way in these man made obstacles, these bureaucratic processes and institutional procedures seems so unrealistic. The world’s way and God’s ways seemed incompatible, and because I can’t fathom it, I ruled it out of my expectations.
My pessimism got the best of me.
What, when at its best, can be analytical, strategic and useful, had become critical, cynical and hopeless. What can be a gift to sharpen ideas and dreams, had become a dampener of hope and expectation. The mind that seeks to prevent problems had come across one it couldn’t control, and had forgotten to expect more from God.
By ‘expect more from God’ I mean, expecting him to do more than I can do. Sounds simple, but to be honest I often forget it. Which sounds ridiculous. But honestly, if I can’t think of a solution, often I imagine neither can God. I forget that God can work outside of me, can intervene and do things I could never do.
I forget to expect the impossible – or even the unlikely.
Do you ever find yourself praying such tiny prayers? “God I have this huge problem, but would you help me sleep tonight.” or “God this looks awful, would you give me a few hours of peace, not worrying about it”. As opposed to “God would you intervene here in a powerful way, shift my perspective and make a way where I can’t see one”.
Maybe it’s time to pray a little bigger.
Maybe it’s time to be more expectant of what God can do.
I feel challenged to do this. Though it feels exhausting to my mind which sees crisis prevention as avoiding high expectations. But this challenge doesn’t call me to expect naively or become detached from the world around me. But to hope in a God who has a track record for fighting for us; who is known for loving so unconditionally and knowing us so deeply. This challenge calls me to trust more deeply in someone so trustworthy.
This challenge calls us to be expectant again.