Our house has been brimming with expectation for weeks: a birthday, the very first day of preschool, the first day of Kindergarten, the return of college football. These are big milestones in Casa Riselli. And as dinner conversation turns from what to wear on the first day to whether the Tennessee outfits fit for Game Day, I can’t help but smile. Who could imagine football jerseys and little orange dresses would teach me volumes about living what I believe?
Not too long ago, during a not-quite-so-fabulous Tennessee football season, I was struck with a profound thought as I watched my husband’s disappointment: His disappointment is relative to his expectations, and because of his expectation are high, his hopes for a win are equally high every week – regardless of their record.
Admittedly, my investment in Tennessee football has been cursory, and as long as I’ve been following Tennessee football, their record hasn’t been stellar, so my expectations don’t include undefeated seasons, SEC Championships, or a National Title. But his memories of championship teams underscore the greatness Vol fans expect every season. When his team wins, the joy is profound and we celebrate with endless toddler renditions of Rocky Top. When his team loses, there’s a range of emotions that may or may not include a remote control flying across the family room. (Disclaimer: My girls both sing UVA’s Good Ole Song along with Rocky Top. Thankfully, orange is a common denominator. Wahoowa!)
One week his enthusiasm and hope for a win against a top-ranked SEC team made me pause. I couldn’t think of a single thing that made me that excited. Nor could I imagine truly hoping for and expecting the lower ranked team to pull out a win. I manage my expectations. I don’t get my hopes up. I don’t want to be disappointed. And I miss out on the fun in life. Managing my expectations means I give power to the fear of disappointment, and I become a master at avoiding the exact situations that could bring me joy.
More and more, I’m learning to pause and look at my life and ask myself – what do I believe? Am I living it? Or am I believing what I live? On that particular Saturday afternoon, football and toddlers twirling in orange dresses caused me to evaluate what I believe about hope, and whether my life reflects the hope I claim to have in my faith.
When I’m believing what I live, I subscribe to the idea that this is all there is, that there’s nothing more to expect, and that I should not get my hopes up. The surest sign that I’m believing what I live is my hesitation to hope. Believing what I ive equates hope with the probability of pain rather than the possibility of joy.
I believe there’s an important link between expectation and hope. I don’t think you can have one without the other. And managing my expectations creates a habit of minimizing hope and stifling the joy it offers.
As a military brat and a military spouse, I’ve heard more than a few military-minded folks quip, “hope is not a course of action.” But the more I look at what my faith teaches me about hope, the more I’ve come realize that hope is the best course of action in all circumstances. Hope isn’t passive – hope is an active approach to the life before me, firmly rooted in the truth of what I believe.
Living what I believe invites expectation because there’s no shortage of hope. Scripture promises, and my own experiences confirm, that hope is like the morning light, reminding me of God’s unfailing love and new mercies each day. Hope anticipates, hope looks for, hope waits for, hope sees, hope receives, and hope celebrates. Hope is an anchor for my soul, holding me firmly even amid the swells of disappointment.
And right there is the profound truth about hope that freed me from managing my expectations. Living what I believe means recognizing that the possibility of disappointment doesn’t outweigh the probability of joy. Living what I believe embraces hope even in the face of disappointment and finds joy. Living what I believe expects goodness in the land of the living.
I want to live what I believe. I want to pursue hope in all circumstances, expect goodness, and find joy. Those are habits of faith that come with repetition and practice. So I started with college football. This year Casa Riselli expects goodness. Regardless of whether the Vols are undefeated, I’m pretty sure those little orange dresses will bring great joy.
Verses to Consider: Romans 5:3-5 * Psalm 143:8 * Psalm 27:13-14 * Hebrews 6:19