I went out to our little strawberry patch last night expecting to pick a few strawberries. I was not going to take a bowl with me but decided it would probably be a good idea to grab one just in case. I grabbed one of our largest glass storage containers, figuring that the bowl would be way too big. Once I was halfway through picking our tiny patch, I realized that the bowl I had selected was way too small. My expectations were exceeded as I began piling the strawberries on top of each other like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We started our little strawberry patch last summer with maybe 12 plants that initially struggled to survive. This summer, our patch has grown and is bearing much fruit!
Contrast our strawberries with our apple trees. (What can I say, I love fruit). My mom gave me two apple trees the first summer we lived here at our dream home on the range. The directions for planting the trees came with the promise that the trees would probably bear fruit after 3 years. That was 4 summers ago and still no fruit. Last summer (summer 3), one of the trees had several blossoms, but the early spring and late freezes killed those blossoms. I thought for sure it would blossom again this year, along with its friend, but it did not. So we wait…
I did not expect many strawberries this year, but was pleasantly surprised. I expected apples, and was disappointed. Expectations are tough. If expectations are met or exceeded, life is good, but if a situation or person fails to meet our expectations, we are left to figure out how to move forward. Regarding fruit, it is fairly easy to move forward from disappointment, but life deals us situations that are a lot tougher than a few barren apple trees.
We can save ourselves the heartache of the disappointment that comes with unmet expectations if we practice having hopes and not expectations. Hopes and expectations desire the same outcome, but having a hope leaves room for embracing alternative outcomes. Expectations, on the other hand, demand only a certain result.
Expectations place a cumbersome weight on the person or situation whereas having a hope does not burden anyone.
Here’s an example: My husband has graciously decided that doing the dishes is his job (I hate doing dishes). So when there is a sink full of dishes, it would be pretty reasonable for me to expect him to do them. Yet, I have a choice. I can expect him to do them, or hope he will do them. The difference is in where MY heart is. If I hope he does the dishes, I am honest about my desires, but if he does not get them done, I am not annoyed. If I expect him to do the dishes and he doesn’t, then I get irritated. The circumstances are the same, but my responses, both on the front end and the latter end, are determined by MY choices.
The same rings true with matters of faith. Some times we expect God to act according to our plans rather than hoping his desires line up with our own. God receives our irritation if he does not do what we expected him to do, and our irritation is like a weed. If allowed to grow, it will choke out the good. Our irritation is a rooted in an incorrect belief about God; therefore, to uproot our irritation (or to prevent its growth) we must be planted in what is true about God.
Here is what I know is true: God is good (Psalm 100:5). He is faithful (Psalm 100:5). He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).
My overflowing bowl of strawberries reminded me that I serve the God of the Harvest. The harvest is fun. But the harvest is not the beginning of the matter, it is the end. There is a lot of hard work (keeping out weeds and faithfully nourishing with water) that is first invested before the harvest can be enjoyed. When it comes to matters of the heart, our labor is to send some deep roots into God’s truth (the Bible) and God will take care of reaping a harvest in our hearts. I really like good fruit and I want that stored up in my heart – not the rotting and decaying stuff.
Some plant, some water, but only God makes it grow (1 Corinthians 3:7). Some days I am frustrated by this reality as I sit and wonder when God will grow another little life inside of me. When my circumstances scream at me to stop trusting God and stop placing my hope in him, I know deep down that the only truly safe hiding place is found with my hope rooted deeply in the soil of God’s unfailing love.
“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).