When Expectations Don't Meet Reality, Does the Silver Lining Still Win?

Do you ever find yourself in a place — whether it’s your car, your room, your job, I don’t know, maybe your life — and wonder “how did I get here?”

Maybe the pile inside your car just started to accumulate. 

Maybe you began to leave clothes across the floor of your bedroom as opposed to putting them back inside your drawer. 

Maybe you started to choose-out instead of courageously choosing in. 

Maybe you told yourself it would be the last time, only to find yourself there again. 

Wondering if it really does get better. 

If help ever really does come. 

If maybe you pull yourself up one more time out of this muck, the bright hole of hope won’t feel so out of reach anymore.

How did I get here?

I never want to settle for complacency. The minute I find myself complacent is the minute I’m sure to destruct anything good that has happened on this road of progress. And yet, here we are. I’ve had a hard time placing a name on this long and arduous season. It’s finally found its name — complacency. 

Everything has an order now, a rhythm that is both gratifying and horrifically boring to me. The question “whats new?” met with the answer “honestly? nothing,” cripples me to my core because I don’t want to lead a boring or complacent life. I want to lead the kind of life people want to read about and draw from. As far as I’m concerned, a life of “nothing new” being the norm makes me want to hurl myself into anything new or exciting with no care for how it could be detrimental to my own mental health. Yet, I know enough to know that once the excitement wears off, it’s just the same old story going around like a carousel again and again. 

To me, the same story is boring.

To me, the same story is uninteresting.

To me, the same anything is… you name it.

I’ve had this sense now that God is preparing me for something in the midst of this feeling of complacency and I’m still not exactly sure what. When He told me this time last year that the pot was stirring and that things would be changing very soon, I had this picture and expectation in my mind about how that change would go and how it would look. I also had no intention of letting Him direct that picture into something new as soon as I had it in my head. 

I expected the picture to look this way, but the picture has not looked the way I imagined it would in the slightest. To be honest, I am very disappointed and left feeling like He is failing me just because it’s not going the way I wanted it to go.

You want what? 

You’re doing this how? 

I have to let this go? 

I mean, thanks God, but also… 

No, thanks.

See, I have a pretty rosy outlook on life and I know that’s really unique. Even the grayest picture filled with only black and white can hold a semblance of color no one else will see — a hope beyond all hope. 

Fall this year has looked a lot like that in New England. Several days have been rainy and cold, disgusting. But the rainy days have made the sunny days — the ones that shine — stick out all the more and reverberate inside my memory chamber like a repeating tape recorder. 

The foliage shines in red, yellow, and orange against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky and green grass. Despite the heavy load, the sun and trees remind me that a new day always comes and when that day comes, the heaviness that lingers isn’t a weight that forgets, but it is a push that tells me everything shines brighter because of it. 

Here’s what the aftermath of that lingering push is teaching me in this time of preparation:

I may never ideally get the picture perfect ending I envision. The perfect day only exists once it has passed and is a semblance of my own memory. I fail to realize the goodness right in front of me until I look back and cross reference everything that has happened as a means of getting myself here. What matters most is that I am even here at all. What matters is that I recognize that here-ness and do all I can to make that matter even when I am trudging through a hard season.

When I hear and think about Mary Oliver’s question “what is it that you want to do with your one wild and precious life?” I snap like a branch, releasing something that looks a lot like an idealized plan (this), but I always end up getting something completely different (that). 

Truthfully, what feels good right now might not serve me best later. What feels like fire and hell now, however, might be the biggest catalyst push for growth, change, and intentional living in a way that says something all on its own even if it doesn’t turn out how I imagined it all would be or should be later on.

“Would be” and “should be” are mere constructs my mind makes up to keep me in the loop of the biggest lies I know: that I don’t belong and that I am not enough. If one thing doesn’t go as planned — which newsflash, has basically been my life as of late — the lies beg at me and taunt me until I am left asking the question we started with: 

How did I get here?

But the next question is never far behind as a beacon of hope. This question shines brighter with a silver lining that tells me this all holds purpose and meaning: What are the small steps I need to take in order to get there?

When I find myself at the end of my own rope, I find that choosing faith and opening my eyes to show up at all is the only way to start.