In a week, I’m turning 39 and looking back, this decade has been an adventure. A move to another state, buying my first home, learning how to survive in a state that loves snow as much as I do not (I’m from Southern California, it’s in my blood to love warmth). It’s a different feeling from when I left my twenties, but I’m also excited for the next chapter. And because party planning is always fun, I’ve already started thinking about what I want to do for my 40th next year (mainly because I’m hoping it will include some kind of travel).
This also got me thinking of the 40th birthday parties I remember when I was a kid, and I have one really important question…why did so many 40th birthday parties have “Over the Hill” themes??? Now that I’m on the cusp of 40 myself, I can’t help but laugh! I often wonder what they expected the other side of 40 to look like.
We all have expectations, don’t we? While where I am today is not at all where I expected myself to be, I can say that I’m thankful that is the case, taking the good with the bad. No matter our age, we all have unmet expectations. It could be personal ones we set for ourselves or expectations we didn’t realize society (including the church) put there until we don’t meet them.
When I was younger, I fully expected myself to pursue science and become a veterinarian. I’ve loved animals and biology from a young age (and still do), so that sense made to me and I planned for that. But as I got older and entered college, I quickly realized that I did not possess the same enthusiasm for other required studies in that field, particularly any kind of math or descriptive chemistry. But that in turn released me from a career expectation and gave me the freedom to pursue other passions and I ended up majoring in Journalism.
Having gone to a Christian university, many young women expected to leave school with a fiancé or husband (and more often than not that was due to the pressure from church culture and expectations put on Christian woman) and left without one. There were also expectations many felt after finishing college, that their five-year and ten-year plans should be laid out perfectly.
Some unmet expectations are easier to shrug off or even laugh off. But others aren’t so easy to ignore. Maybe it’s being a career you never wanted that only started out as “just to have a job.” Maybe it’s not being as fulfilled as you thought you would be in your marriage. Maybe it’s a close friendship that ended, causing deep pain. Maybe it’s a hurtful lack of support of your gifts and talents from those you trust.
Maybe it’s unmet expectations in dating and what your marital status is. Maybe it’s the expectation of support from family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and instead seeing them push back the most. Maybe it’s an unexpected end of a marriage you thought would be forever. There are so many maybes and realities we each experience.
Whether each new year brings what I expected or what I didn’t, the truth and hope that has gotten me through all of it is Jesus and only Jesus.
Seems like such a “simple” answer yet is everything. Through Christ alone I find my value. And when my worth is secure, I don’t have to let unmet expectations define me. In Psalm 139, we read:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:13-15 (NIV)
Not only does the Lord know our inmost being, we are wonderfully made by Him. Not matter my unmet or met expectations, that truth is always there! And because my truth, my value, my everything is tied to Jesus, through all of life circumstances, I can always find hope and peace in Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
I have experienced the beautiful unexpected and learned it doesn’t complete me. I have also experienced the heartbreaking unexpected and learned that it also won’t crush me completely.
May you also find peace in this truth today.