"It's easy to expect that we will find ourselves in a good place surrounded by good people who like and affirm us. But life has a way of breaking those expectations. What then?" --Joe Stowell
In the movie scene depicted above from Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" Pip has just entered Miss Haversham's dining room....still set for her wedding breakfast which never took place more than 30 years before. There are rodents and cobwebs and who knows what else lurking about the petrified cake. She still wears her wedding gown, never getting over the fact she'd been duped. All the clocks in the house remained set at 20 minutes to 9:00, the time the letter arrived jilting her. It was as though she was punishing herself for falling in love with a man who had only meant to defraud her from the beginning.
Joe Stowell asked a counsellor what major issues brought people to him. His answer: "broken expectation" because if not dealt with, it led to anger and bitterness. In the fictional Miss Haversham's case her bitterness turned to revenge. She raised Estella, her adopted daughter, to break Pip's heart, as her own heart had been. Estella leads him on then marries another. But in the end Miss Haversham confesses, "I stole her heart away and put ice in its place." She regretted her actions and was sorry that Pip's heart had been broken. Miss Haversham's self-punishment tainted the lives of many people, not just her own.
So Joe Stowell asks, "What then?" What should we do when we meet disappointment? When I was a child I was greatly disappointed with my life. My parents had many problems and argued all the time. We moved every year from 5th grade on. These two factors I believe were at the root of the great expectations I had for my life once I was on my own. It didn't help that I had the TV show "Father Knows Best" to set me up to believe a "fantasy" life was possible. I looked up a synopsis of the show and it said, "The series characterized the Andersons as 'truly an idealized family, the sort that viewers could relate to and emulate'." Emulate is what I tried to do....only the rest of the cast did not follow the same script!
I'm glad to report I did not suffer anger and bitterness about my childhood or a desire for revenge, but it did cause me to set goals for my life that were not attainable. That caused me to have disappointments throughout my life, never feeling my life was "enough" despite all that I had achieved. What I was really saying, though, was that I was not enough.
I finally understood I was using the wrong tool to assess my self-worth. Like Miss Haversham I looked to how people behaved towards me and let that determine my worth. Then I hung onto this assessment whenever I disappointed myself....like Miss Haversham leaving the wedding breakfast and cake on her table as a reminder of how she'd been treated, even to the point of stopping the clocks. I can see ways in which this has affected the people around me like Estella and Pip were affected by Miss Haversham's self-punishment.
The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way for any of us. God offers us forgiveness for the ways we've not only wronged others, but also Him and ourselves. All you have to do is accept this forgiveness. If Miss Haversham had forgiven herself for letting herself be taken in by her false-hearted suitor, she would have found love eventually because she would have felt worthy of it.
Joe Stowell goes on to tell us that there is one expectation that we will never suffer disappointment over. He says, "If our expectation is to make Christ visible to those around us regardless of where we are or who we are with, we will find those expectations met and even exceeded. Christ will be magnified."
Father, loving others "no matter what" is how we make Christ visible. Show me the ways in which I can make Your love made known to others.
Link to scripture: 1 John 4:12