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Reality Bites

Every year, December brings a few things we've come to expect: the local oldies station playing Christmas tunes a little too early; advertisements exhorting us to spend, spend, spend; complainers complaining about "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas"; and some smarter-than-thou guy on Facebook informing everyone that the Nativity scenes are all wrong. 

The latter person takes a certain satisfaction in being the one who sets everyone straight about how Jesus probably wasn't born in a stable, and even if there was a stable, the Wise Men (they weren't kings and there weren't 3 of them) weren't there anyway because they most likely saw Him up to 2 years after He was born. 

And the Little Drummer Boy? Don't get him started. 

If Facebook Guy is correct, it's likely that one day, in this life or the next, we're going to find out that the birth of Jesus was nothing like we pictured it. We were raised thinking it was one thing, and then our balloons will be burst. Our imagined First Christmas will crash, face-first, into reality.   

But Christmas isn't the only place in my head where reality gets the last word. How about adulthood? It's been nothing like what I pictured while growing up. The way life has turned out so far is night-and-day different from what I expected when I was a child, when I was thinking about what it would be like once I finished school, moved out, and eventually started a career and family.

But that's OK. Even though life brought me plenty of surprises, God wasn't surprised a bit. Besides, my expectations were not His priority. While I thought about how much money I'd make, how I'd look as a grown man, and what it would be like to have a family, God was focused on my spiritual growth.  

And the disruption of those expectations? Not a bad thing. Unmet expectations are part of the spiritual maturation process. 

Thankfully, God's reality is better than what we imagined.  

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
-1 Corinthians 2:9

As I examine my adult life, He has turned out to be better, kinder, and He comes out of nowhere with answered prayer and solutions to my problems. Beth Moore recently tweeted:  "Jesus will turn out so much more gracious, merciful, patient AND mysterious than you thought."

My life is full of examples of unmet expectations which turned out for the good. But it's not just me. My friend Daryl was diagnosed with Leukemia;  several of us prayed that he would need no chemo. He chose to go along with doctors' recommendation of 4 rounds of chemo. But after the 3rd round, out of the blue, the doctors informed Daryl the tests were showing him to be cancer-free, so they're canceling the final round. As a result, Daryl has a great testimony about how God healed him and delivered him and astounded the doctors. In summary, his friends had expectations of a miracle and no chemo, while the doctors created different expectations of 4 rounds. But the story played out in a way that defied both sets of expectations. Why? Because God gets to be God, and the biggest part of our spiritual growth comes from learning to trust Him.  

Is there anything more important in any person's life than how much he trusts God?  How we handle the unmet expectations and disruptions will define us. On that day when we see Him face to face, we'll answer to Him for how well we trusted Him in the face of circumstances and in spite of our expectations. 

This is of extreme importance.  Not every Christian handles life disruptions and unfulfilled dreams the right way.  Some have been disappointed in how God supposedly didn't come through, and have chosen to lose trust in Him and live a life apart from Him. 

Perhaps our prayer for ourselves should be this: Jesus, don't let me lose focus on You, even as life surprises me with the unexpected, and as You surprise me by bringing me through it in unexpected ways. Amen.


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