Hope, Nurtured and Negated.

Christians have a complicated relationship with expectations. And the ambiguity of it–and the wielding of that ambiguity as a defense when goals are not achieved and responsibilities are shirked–drives me a little nuts. I like outcomes tied to inputs–if you do x, you record y. If you spend an amount on an initiative, you should have to justify the expenses in data packaged as either results or lessons.

I feel strongly about the above. But that’s a me thing, and I’ll cop to that; figuring out how to manage expectations and personal achievements and disappointments is a big part of both forgiveness and walking a path towards happiness. I get all of that. In the wake of last month’s heinousness, full of murder and blame and agendas and misogyny and everything else unholy that bruises us in body and spirit, I find myself fussy and agitated. We keep praying. And then we recess back to our relaxed states, assured somehow that maybe God has heard us with enough alacrity this time to not poke extra holes into a whole host of innocent people, when the next opportunity arises.

Gang, I keep saying it: that part is up to us.

Dashed expectations, if managed improperly, lead to resentment. That’s the worst kind of self-abuse: when you keep expecting better of someone who knows this, and continues to not meet those expectations–and then you stick around. That’s not on them. And that’s a harmful kind of love, for both of you. If your gang or team doesn’t meet your expectations, you can adjust the expectations…or you can adjust your team. There’s no harm in that, so long as you don’t bring anger along with you as you swap out your squad for colleagues who meet your high expectations and in turn, challenge you to meet theirs. It’s like @GaryVee says: Stop Hanging Around With People Who Don’t Want to Win. I’d swap “Win” out for “nuture you” or “empower you” or “push you” or a variant of growth, but it syncs up nicely.

In expecting us to try fiercely to love and be better, Jesus has¬†expectations of us; he also knows we’re going to fail greatly. And it’s in understanding that circle in which hope stays alive. We work hard and try to love deeply and understand; that’s where hope comes from, the physical activity of trying, madly, with energy and spirit, to connect in new and better ways. That’s how we nurture it. We kill it when we assume that hope is easy, or just a term, or a faucet that we can turn on and off on a whim.

Belief takes effort, especially in light of the harrowing onslaught of events that work hard to dash it. We have to work equally hard to keep it going.

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