Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not So Great Expectations

So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them (Acts 3:5).

I am married to an optimist. After seventeen years you might think that some of that optimism would have rubbed off on me. It hasn’t happened, much to the chagrin of my dear wife.

My problem doesn’t merit a diagnosis. As far as I know I’m not depressed. But there’s something in the wiring of my brain that predisposes me to see what won’t work, what might go wrong, what won’t happen according to plan.

On most days this sour inclination is simply annoying, to both me and my wife. But there are times when the knee-jerk woes are more than irritating. They are an affront to God. Pessimism is a nest that allows faithlessness to hatch into other things like anxiety and bitterness and lack of trust. None of these make for a life of robust faith.

In Acts 3 we’re told about a man who took a beggar’s post every day near the gate called Beautiful. The story says nothing abut his internal world – hopeful or desperate, optimistic or pessimistic. All we know is that he can’t walk. Never has walked. He lives by the pity and generosity of others. Carried by others, he is placed near the gate and waits for those moving about on two good legs to notice him and be moved to part with their spare change.

His expectations don’t appear to be high. As Peter and John make their way to the temple to pray, the beggar asks for money, but he doesn’t ask with real anticipation. He mouths his request but doesn’t really take notice of Peter and John. Peter has to get his attention. “Look at us,” Peter says.

The beggar looks, and here we get a glimpse into his expectations. He turns to Peter expecting to get alms. He hears Peter’s summons as a call to extend the hand and receive the only income he can manage to collect. The beggar expected a few more coins, but he received so much more than he expected. Peter has no coins to give, no silver, no gold. But what he does have is power, and he gladly gives it. With authority, in the name of Jesus, Peter tells the beggar to walk.

Our expectations, it seems, are often defined by our experience. Faith is not. Faith has veto power over repeated experiences that breed low expectations.

Jesus confronts our low expectations and invites us to live by faith. Perhaps we live far too many of our days like the beggar, content to get what we need to survive, but never dreaming that anything more than mere survival might be possible. Our expectations get conditioned by a handful of coins, but God in his power makes us stand up and leap about and worship. Is this day already defined for you by all your yesterdays? What would it mean to live this day by faith?

Lord Jesus, any and every day can bring the unexpected. Give me the kind of faith that is ready and attentive for whatever you might be doing around me. Raise my sights above the routine and familiar. Let the miracles that unfold in ordinary things move me to worship and praise you. Amen.

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