Expectations are tricky things, aren’t they?
Undoubtedly, setting some high expectations for yourself can be a positive motivating force in your life and your work. The apostle Paul used them to motivate himself – to remain strong and faithful in the face of great adversity (Philippians 1:20).
But clinging too rigidly to expectations makes it hard to adjust course when faced with unexpected events, challenges and disappointments. And if there’s one thing I can promise you about your life, it’s that you will experience unexpected events, challenges and disappointments.
So set your expectations high, and then hold them loosely.
That way, when faced with the unexpected, you can embrace a new path and focus on the work God has put before you.
In Susan DiMickele’s inspiring new book, Working Women of the Bible, she describes this kind of attitude as “embracing Plan C,” and how it is personified by Ruth. Ruth was a young Moabite woman who married into a Jewish family living in Moab. Ruth’s husband had a widowed mother and a brother, who also married a Moabite. That was Plan A: get married and build a family together.
But Ruth’s husband and his brother died, and his mom, Naomi, decided to return to Israel. Ruth’s sister-in-law, also widowed, decided to return to her own family. That was Plan B: return home, try to build a new life in familiar surroundings.
But Ruth feels called to Plan C, and Plan C frankly doesn’t look very good. This is how Susan describes it: “She embarks on a 120-mile journey with an old woman to a foreign land… She could be homeless. A widow forever. An outcast among the Jews… The odds are stacked against her.”
Talk about unmet expectations! I’m sure that when Ruth first married, Plan C wasn’t even on the radar. But she didn’t get distracted by frustration or bitterness. She didn’t even sulk or complain. In fact, she dove in to this new life path wholeheartedly, telling Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth finds work retrieving stalks of grain left by the harvesters, and she does it with all her heart, even though it’s menial, mundane, and probably beneath her. Susan draws a wonderful parallel between Ruth and most working women today:
Many of us can relate to Ruth. We don’t want to do the work that God has given us. We think God has forgotten completely about our resumes—our skill sets, our unique qualifications to do something else. Something more important.
Susan goes on to describe how Ruth threw herself into the work that God set before her, working excellently in service of His Glory, rather than focusing on her own comfort.
When faced with the unexpected, you can embrace a new path wholeheartedly like Ruth, or you can be bitterly swept in a new direction. Either way, you’re changing course, but one options is more fruitful, and also less painful than the other.
How is God challenging your expectations? Do you find yourself embracing Plan C (or D, or E), or struggling against it?