A 17-year phenomenon. This year is my first experience with cicadas. I don’t remember hearing about them seventeen years ago, when I was in Atlanta, GA. If I did, I am pretty certain that it didn’t make any impact on me. This year, however, feels very different. It feels like I am experiencing something new for the very first time. It all began last Saturday, right after our confirmation retreat. I was sitting outdoors on the bench by the driveway. I just felt something funny climbing up my right leg, I immediately swiped at my leg and shook it, and guess what fell down? That's right - a cicada.
For the life of me, I wasn’t expecting a cicada to climb up my leg. It was a surprise to have my expectations altered by a climb of a single cicada. For those of us who heard the unstoppable and unending noise, this is exactly what it was like seventeen years ago. But for those for whom this is the first experience, I wonder if this is what you expected. If this isn’t what you expected, can you recall when you've had your expectations altered before?
We all have some expectations of ourselves - high expectations, if you will. I have many high expectations of myself, and I strive - as much as I can - to meet those expectations. Do I always meet my own expectations of myself? Of course not! Like you, I often find myself falling far short of meeting them.
One of the bits of wisdom that I share with couples during pre-marital counseling is, if possible, to have little to no expectations for each other, instead just to simply grow together. This is because you don’t want to get disappointed by failing expectations. In fact, the only expectation you should have is for you, yourself, because you are the only one who can control what you do and what you say.
My former Rector, Cliff Cutler, tells a story of altered expectation and disappointment. One of his sons was enrolled at Boston University for his undergraduate studies. For whatever reason, this young man decided to quit school. He then got himself a job at a factory and worked on the assembly line. One of his colleagues at the assembly line was an old African American man.
One night, as they worked their shift at the assembly line, the old African American man asked him:
‘Son, do you want to work on a carpet or on a concrete floor?’
‘Why? came a response from the young man.
Well, this job ain't for you,’ the old man replied.
That night, the young man quit and re-enrolled at school. He is now pursuing his Ph.D. in psychology. That particular conversation became his turning point. That night was so bright that he could see the words of an old African American man, a person who saw more in him than he saw in himself at the time.
What are your expectations for yourself? Do you see more in yourself than others might want to acknowledge? Remember, how we see things changes what we see - you can either see the glass as half-empty or half-full, but it all depends on how you see it.
One of the interesting post-resurrection stories recounts the journey on the road to Emmaus. Two disciples of the resurrected Jesus were on their way to Emmaus when they were joined by Jesus. However, they did not know that it was him. In response to a question from Jesus about their conversation, one of the two shared the abiding hope of all of Israel, all of God's people. “But we were hoping He was the One who would redeem Israel. And besides all this, it is the third day since these things took place.” In a very real way, Cleopas and his friend expressed their sense of frustration and disappointment over their failed expectations in Jesus. It wasn’t until Jesus broke bread with them that they noticed who has been walking with them along the way, and when they saw him, they returned back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that hope is alive, the Lord is alive. The conversation became a turning point for them; that night was so bright that they could see their way to Jerusalem, even in that thick darkness.
Three things for our consideration: our own expectations of ourselves, our expectations of others, and others' expectations of us. These expectations may not always align like the cacophony of noise created by the cicadas, but we cannot discount their presence, either.
I do not know what your expectations are for yourself or for someone else, but I’d like to encourage you that if at all possible, work towards exceeding your own expectations for yourself. And if at all possible, see through the darkness of the night’s limitations, and walk to ‘Jerusalem’ with the good news that you can see more in yourself... beyond your expectations.