If there has been one thing that God keeps trying to instruct me (and there are more likely many more than one!), I am now slowly learning to modify expectations and never presume that my plans will (or even should) work out. Trust others to follow through on a project, and you will eventually be disappointed. Expect your family or friends to recognize what you do for them and see how that works out for you! Passionate and honest sports fans have an ironic advantage: they know that as they watch their team’s hope-filled season disintegrate due to injuries or unfulfilled potential, they will soon drift through the pain-filled weeks/months praying to be put out of their misery. On a far more important level, over my years, I have officiated at (or attended) the funeral liturgies of too many children whose lives were cut short due to illness or bad choices – expectations to be unfulfilled and dreams that end in death.
It seems to me that we humans display both our foolishness and arrogance whenever we claim to “know” what lies ahead and to base our expectations (and presumptive happiness) upon such knowledge. Didn’t we just watch forecasters truly struggle with tracking the path of Hurricane Irma, and even the model from merely 24 hours out proved to be wrong. We are not infallible. We’re not prescient. Not one of us can see beyond that horizon that would allow us to “see” tomorrow.
Faith, not in our abilities or lack thereof, not in other people and their strength of will, but in our gracious God and father, is to be the hallmark of Christian life. I cannot and will not put my faith in political philosophies or ecclesiastical systems. Let me keep my assumptions, presumptions and expectations in check because I can never know all that tomorrow will bring. But I do know that God in Christ’s death and resurrection has forgiven me. Whatever else lies ahead, while I may have hope, I ought to have few expectations.
Like so many of you, I’ve been moved by news (and video) of the numerous acts of generosity and courage that have come out of Hurricane Harvey’s zone of destruction. We’ve seen the rescues by truck, flatbed, boat, swan float, helicopter and more! We’ve heard stories of football players raising millions of dollars, a little sweetheart who opened a lemonade stand for victim relief, and a real surge of generosity that has raised our spirits as well as finances for those who are truly suffering. (Here I can once again commend Episcopal Relief and Development as an outstanding on-the-ground relief aid organization.) And, of course, there are also the stories of those who tried to charge $90 for a case of water to those who had nothing.
Sounds so trite but disasters do bring out both the best and the worst in humankind. When encountering those in crisis or at least in a vulnerable position, do we respond with grace (and in fact respond to grace) to reach out with love and caring OR do we allow the misfortune of another to enhance our own fortune? It’s always a matter of choice, isn’t it? Am I open to that power which God gives to any and all who seek it in order to love my neighbor as much as I love myself?
Jesus put it rather clearly: “Love one another as I have loved you.” You perceive a person in need, then love that person and try to address that need. You do what you can as best you can. Human life has always been and will ever be marked by the impact of nature’s random cruelty. (The old proverb, while annoying, remains true: “While God always forgives, nature never forgives!”) We’re here for a purpose, and as long as we are here, I hope and pray we can respond to that divine impetus to love the other and be there for the other not because we want to be thanked or because we fear that if we don’t, bad things might happen to us, but simply because Jesus taught that if you want to be his follower, you have to love one another. There is no other way!