And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Ok, I apologize for the clickbait there. But I did have a brief LSD trip early last week for almost 2 days.
For us Delawareans, LSD is shorthand for the southern part of the state, otherwise known as Lower Slower Delaware. That's where the coastline is, where the wide open spaces exist, and where life moves at a different pace. If I want to get away but stay close by, just an hour south offers wildlife, natural shorelines, and quiet. It's a sacred area for me.
So I headed down to a state park for an overnight prayer retreat alone last week. I spent most of my time in a tiny one room cabin. But I allowed myself a two hour field trip to a nearby beach, because I heard that a few short-eared owls had been hunting over the beach grass at dusk as they migrate. I'd never seen or photographed them before, so I was excited to take in their beauty. I got there about 90 minutes before dusk and settled in. I leaned on the hood of my car beside six other bird photographers with far superior skill and lenses to my own. With the sun at our backs for the perfect shot, we scanned the shoreline grasses as the sun sank lower, our eyes constantly moving across the field they've been hunting at for several weeks.
After over an hour, it felt pretty clear that the trip was going to be a bust. There was no sign of life in this field, but still we stared. Eventually, a little frustrated, I gave up on the field and started looking around. And something happened. The moment I turned around and stopped focusing on the lack of owls was the moment that I realized just how extraordinary other surroundings were. I changed my direction, facing the sun directly. In the distance was a perched Northern Harrier, watching the sunset in a perfect silhouette. And all around me, the ocean grasses sparkled with golden light, enjoying a rare moment of stillness from the constant breeze. I contemplated them. I enjoyed them. I photographed them.
And I realized that this illustrated what God had been speaking to me during these 2 days. Expectations can really get in the way of experience.
It's always been a challenge in my life. Often, my expectations are the very things that limit me from receiving God's many gifts. Is this ever true for you? I’m a big expectations guy. I envision how things are supposed to go, and I can really get thrown when they don’t go according to plan. I become so disappointed when one element of my life doesn’t unfold in the way I think it should. Or if I'm making plans that I'm excited about and they have to change. Or if I'm traveling just to see owls and they aren't showing up when they are supposed to. Stupid birds.
And when my expectations of life are not met, I don't always turn around to notice new moments God might be leading me towards. I struggle to scan beyond my own assumptions about how Jesus will meet me, or about what the good life really is.
The times of my deepest frustration and despair are the times that I have convinced myself that things will only be ok if X Y Z happens.
This is not faith. This is hubris. This is me assuming that I can always perceive how God can and will work. Oh, Keith. When you gonna learn, man?
The good news according to Jesus is that God is always at work, and often in ways that we least expect. God makes oases in the desert. God brings life after what feels like death. God opens doors to hope in the midst of despair, and fulfillment in the midst of disappointment. God brings healing to traumatic wounds, and laughter to the one who thought that that their life could only feel tragic. God brings good news to the poor and peace to the stressed out. But, to put it simply, it often doesn't come where we're looking for it. Often, our plans and expectations don't happen. But the discipleship journey is walking in trust that Jesus is with us, meeting us, shaping us, and caring for us even as we walk through those situations.
During my retreat, I read the stories of Jesus providing for people in ways that they never saw coming, and bringing hope and transformation in the most unexpected of moments. Those stories, and my own history with God's provision, are encouraging me to constantly look around for the love and presence of Jesus. I'm learning that it'll usually happen in unexpected situations, people, and places. But when we turn around to look for Jesus with fresh eyes of faith, it's breathtaking what we encounter.
Jesus, meet me in my unmet expectations.