“I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone’s expectations.” These are the words that end a Calvin and Hobbes strip as Calvin gloats about the C his school work earned to Susie. Susie, who earned an A, is understandably perplexed. As usual, though, Bill Watterson uses this devious 6-year-old and his stuffed tiger to make us think. This particular statement brings to mind the burden of carrying other’s expectations. The flipside of this is expressed when we lower our own expectations in order to avoid the displeasure of disappointment. Both of these realities fly in the face of our first reading today.
Our first reading is from Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth. In this passage, St. Paul calls his brothers and sisters back to a Christian view. A view that declares that death has been conquered. Our reading ends too early, but this section of the letter ends with the short hymn, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). Paul is calling us out from our temptation to set low expectations. He is reminding us that the resurrection is not a gift from this world, but from our God who conquered death. Shoot for the stars (cf. 15:40-41)! Yes, we will face disappointments this side of heaven, but we will not be disappointed when we see God face-to-face. Heaven will not be boring.
This call to raise our expectations of eternity in God brings us back to Calvin’s observation. Unrealistic expectations can be a substantial burden. We can crush one another under them. As fellow sinners leaning on the mercy of God, it is wrong for us to pile unrealistic expectations on one another’s shoulders. But we do this. We demand perfection of others and clemency for ourselves. We want understanding when we are misinterpreted and gossip about the stupid thing someone said. We treat our spouses as if loving us is the equivalent of being loved by us, and then demand affection when we feel stretched. We have weighty expectations, but praise God we know someone who can carry them. The Lord promises that his burden is light and his yoke is easy because he can bear the weight of our foolishness. As believers we should not be casting our great expectations upon anyone but the Lord who constantly brings us back to His promises.
Our walks are not easy, we carry real burdens and realistic expectations that challenge us. But we walk in the promise of eternal life, a reality that will greatly exceed our wildest expectations. Nothing for our God is impossible, so let us stop laying our impossible expectations upon one another and instead bring them to our God who laughs merrily at how cute our ideas are and how magnificently he will exceed them.