I recently finished reading "The Shack", a very popular work of fiction which I really enjoyed. I have to admit, I was a little hesitant to read it for a few reasons; First, I have young children, and the knew a little of the storyline and that it might bring to my imagination things I'd rather not imagine happening to them. Second, I don't usually like "fad" books - particularly when they're faith-oriented.
Despite the above I decided to give it a go! Boy, am I glad that I did. Many people have reported having a profoundly new perspective on God after reading this book. That's great, but that's not what I got out of it. I really latched on to something else... "expectations".
At one point In the story, "Mack", the main character converses with God who goes on to tell him that He has no expectations for Mack. This is profoundly difficult for Mack to get a hold of because of his history of viewing God as this sort of force full of expectations for Mack that he could never meet. God goes on to explain to Mack that people have expectations because people have desires for an outcome in the future over which they have no control or foresight. Because God knows the future, and is sovereign over the outcome of our lives, he has no need of expectations - in fact cannot have them! For God to have expectations, he'd have to 1) not know the outcome of all things in advance and 2) have no control over the future.
God then goes on to explain to Mack how expectations are law, and that the basis of relationship with God is expectancy. Big difference! The former locks us up in fear of failure, the later frees us to enjoy relationship! Wow! The law could be defined as a list of expectations and consequences when those expectations are not met, right? Expectations are a form of law!
The author (and myself) is not saying that those in relationship with God can just spend their life doing any old worthless thing. That would be contrary to the overall teaching of Scripture, and inconsistent with new spiritual life. The born again believer acts not because of expectations of God (ie duty, responsibility), but out love, gratitude, and joy in their relationship with Jesus.
It occurred to me how often my relationships are taxed or even ruined because either myself or the other moves from a place of expectancy to expectations. You know how this goes. You enjoy someone's company for a while, then you get to a place where you let them down, or they let you down. It's hard to recover from those events sometimes. "Let down" = "failed expectation(s)".
Many relationships fail because we expect something of the other, then abandon the relationship when the other fails to meet those expectations.
So aside from being challenged to understand and walk in the truth that God doesn't have expectations for me, I've also been challenged lately to release others from my expectations and enjoy the expectancy of relating to them. (ie. "What will happen next time we're together?") Isn't that the basis of any love-based relationship?
I hope to follow this up with some thoughts on how expectations produce soul-killing traditions which destroy organic community in Jesus. Stay tuned.