Friday, February 24, 2012

Devotional Expectations

Expectations give hope to our ability to control.

It can be anytime of day, the outcome is usually the same. It’s me, the Bible and my journal if it’s a good day. I sit there on my comfortable reading chair, with a blanket halfheartedly thrown over my lap. I have a candle lit at times, a small lamp glowing next me, and there’s….what? Hope? Excitement? Fear? Anticipation?


There is always expectation in my devotional life. Expecting God to show up. Expecting myself to show up. Waiting to see what incredible insight God has for me this day. What will I see in scripture that I have never noticed before? Today I know he will give me the answers I have been seeking for so long. This will be the time when I can finally, for once and for all lay down my fear and control. After waiting all these years, I know that this will be the time where God chooses to speak to me. I will be filled with truth, and knowledge and peace. This is why we show up to devotions right? You hear people say, “Today in my quiet time, God revealed to me…..” (Fill in the blank). Where is that for me? Why does Scripture still not make sense? What do I do with the pieces of Scripture that I don’t understand? What do I do about the situations in my life where I can’t seem to get it under control? If I keep showing up, won’t something happen? Won’t I get my answers?

I come to my devotional filled with Hope. I come wanting. I come expecting.

Unfortunately with expectation usually comes disappointment. When we place our own ideas into the present moment, we are trying to control it. When we are trying to control what is happening, we aren’t allowing our Spirit or heart to accept what really is. We steal our opportunity to be open and see what will happen when we try to control with our expectations what we want.

In life there are healthy expectations, unrealistic expectations, and low expectations. I am speaking directly to the unhealthy expectations and baggage we bring to the table in regards to our devotional life. For me, when I come to devotions I am usually burdened, heavy, selfish, distracted, wanting, hopeful, tired, and ready to be filled. Ready to be strengthened, to release all that I am carrying and set my heart on the cross once again. I am a firm believer that whenever you are putting the word of God into your heart and mind, or you pray and speak with God Almighty, you are being strengthened. You do point your heart in the right direction. It just isn’t earth shattering or revolutionary every time.

It’s hard sometimes when I go and speak at youth conferences and adult retreats. They hear me relate stories and experiences of times that God has really revealed himself to me in my devotional or prayer time. They were life changing moments where he revealed sin and asked for repentance. They are the moments that change the way you live and understand grace. But those are only a handful of moments compared to the hundreds of times I’ve shown up. I have nothing to say to the devotions where I read three Psalms, prayed and then go about my day. Sometimes I don’t remember the Psalms by the end of the day, and I need God’s mercy even more by evening than I did that morning. Nothing soul changing happened that day.

But in our conversations with other believers we hear of the times, the moments where we really heard God speak into our life. For me it sets this expectation that those moments happen every time. That I must be doing something wrong if it isn’t. That I can control the depth, the wisdom and intensity of my devotional life. Do it earlier, light a candle, pray harder, read the passage again because I didn’t get anything from it. Please God show up because I have to get going to work!

Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t why more people give up on a devotional life. They show up a few times and nothing magnificent happens and so after a few days or weeks, they just stop. Their expectation hasn’t been met. They don’t have a “God revealed this to me today…” story to share or cling to and so it feels empty and they walk away.

I have a friend who started to practice the discipline of just “showing up”. That was it. Just. Show. Up. When you just show up, there is no expectation. She wanted to create the habit of showing up. To form the routine and understanding that just showing is critical to the souls survival. And even though, if you keep showing up, something will happen at some point, that is not expected. The practice, the devotion is just showing up.

I think of my husband and I. We don’t have an evening filled with romance or deep conversation every time we hang out. I don’t learn something new about him every time we hang out. Some times we are just there, sharing space, breathing the same air, being in each others presence. It’s good, I like him. But there are times when I walk away from our time sharing the same space neither feeling more loved or less loved. I virtually feel the same. I think the same can be said for devotional time.

So here is my encouragement if you want it. There is no right or wrong way to have a devotional life. Just show up. Every time you train yourself to show up, you strengthen the discipline inside you. And when you show up and you pray and read scripture, you are encouraging your faith. You never come away unaffected. You will always come away having spent time with God. Being in the presence of God is good for everyone. Lay your expectations down. Get rid of them. Be present in the moment and just let it be what it is. Let God do what he is going to do. Don’t try to control it. Trust God to teach you and guide you and strengthen you as he knows best. Don’t give up. Just keep showing up.

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