Expectations. We all have them. We have them for our careers. For our families. For our church life. We expect certain things to happen as we progress through this pilgrim’s journey.
I’ve always dreamed big dreams. I once had a goal of graduating from high school number 1 in my class. Not. Even. Close. I wanted to be President of the United States. I then had the expectation that I would be one of the greatest, most heroic Marines ever to live. In fact, when I would write home from boot camp I would end my letters “The best since Chesty.” (for the uninitiated, “Chesty” refers to Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, recognized as the very definition of Marine). Well, I guess I made it up to mediocre at best. While I loved the Corps it just didn’t work out the way I thought it would.
I was discharged from the Marine Corps and wandered in California for another ten years or so. I owned a business, worked for some others. Lived what I thought was a decent life. But something wasn’t right I guess. My dad died in 1997. My world changed and so did I.
I moved to northern Virginia to take a job at a Primary Standards Laboratory. That’s pretty high on the food chain in my field. At one point some at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology—THE measurement nerds extraordinaire for the US) were interested in me working there. But it didn’t come to fruition. I felt the Lord leading me to Seminary. So I went.
I thrived in Seminary, loving all the academic stuff and learning all kinds of neat stuff about God and encountering Him in new and interesting ways. I graduated with highest honors, second in my class, in 2004 with an MDiv, a wife, child and another child on the way! We were ready to go and serve. I had high expectations. I was a candidate at a few churches locally. One I was a finalist. I thought I was going to be the one called. I was excited. I expected the call. It never came. I was not chosen. Someone else got the call. Disappointed is too mild a term for what I felt. “What is wrong with me?” I thought.
I served in a church in a bi-vocational manner (I held a job outside of the ministry I conducted). I would preach once a month, teach when and where I could. I thought I could do this for awhile. We were there for a few years until a doctrinal issue created a problem. I expected that it would be resolved. I guess it was sort of, kind of resolved. I was encouraged to find another church since I considered the particular doctrinal issue in dispute as essential. So me and my family left. “What is wrong with me?” I thought.
The years went by with me serving at another church. I filled pulpits and being a candidate multiple times. When the pastor of a church decided the Lord was leading him to another place of ministry, for a moment I thought maybe that I would be considered. That was not to be either as the elders had decided to ask someone else. (a fine choice by the way). I was disappointed again. “What is wrong with me?” I thought.
Well, time continued. The Lord seemed to leading me to plant a church. I met with my pastor about this. He had felt months before that I should plant a church. We spoke about how this should be handled. I wanted to handle it in a God-honoring way. I told my pastor that I would ask no one to come with us. I just wanted the prayers of these dear people. My pastor decided with the elders that they would encourage anyone who wanted to go with us to go with their blessings. Wow! I think we left with four families. We started well at Main Street Bible Church. We grew quickly from the small plant group to about 95. That growth was not because of me, it was because God was blessing the preaching of His word. My expectations rose. I thought that we could become a church that planted churches without regard for growing large itself. I was excited. Then my expectations crashed.
In August 2011, a man I trusted enough to appoint as an elder decided to leave Main Street. Not only did he leave, he left in a manner that caused the church to split. I knew that Main Street would not survive. Not a year later, Main Street Bible Church died. Heartbroken my mind wondered…“What’s wrong with me?” That question rang in my ears for quite a while.
As I have searched for an answer to that question, I figured out I was asking the wrong question. The question isn’t “What’s wrong with me?” The question is “What’s right with me?” An besides that, this life isn’t about me anyway!
I am a sinner saved by grace. I live for Jesus Christ because of Jesus Christ. I am nowhere near perfect. My expectations have yet to be met because I have mismanaged them. I’ve looked at them incorrectly. I have expected too little. When I should have expected to live a holy life, too often I settled for a “good” life. When I should have expected to be a servant, I often settled to be a leader (without the servant part). When I should have expected increased loyalty to God, I settled for expecting loyalty from others. Ouch!
So now what? What do I do now? I have a church split on my resume. The church I planted has died. Not achievements any pastor wants on his resume, that’s for sure. What’s next for me and my family? What is my expectation? Will I settle once again for something less? What do I need to do? How about you? Do you have unmet expectations? What do you expect to be, expect to happen, or expect to become in the coming months? Years? The rest of the life you live?
I expect to be a servant of God almighty for the rest of my days on earth. I do not expect others to follow me because I expect I will point everyone to follow Christ. I will pursue Him with purposed abandon. Though I will do this imperfectly, I will do this faithfully. While I don’t know what form my service and my family’s service to God will take, we will serve. That’s my expectation.