My plans started to go sideways when I awoke at 1:30 am with rain falling on my face. It took me a minute to remember where I was and process what was happening. Just a few hours earlier, I had arrived at Mount Marion campground near Idyllwild. My plan was to pitch the tent, get some sleep, wake up the next morning, and hike to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. I knew it would be a challenge to embark on the 12-mile round trip hike that would climb 4500 feet in elevation. I had been hiking regularly, though, over the past couple of months and was sure I was up for the challenge. I fully expected that by mid-morning the next day, I would be standing at the summit. I didn’t, however, account for the rain. In my defense, how often does it rain in Southern California in late June? When I put up the tent, I hadn’t bothered to attach the rain fly and was now paying the price. Grumbling at my bad luck, I dragged myself out of the tent, found the rain fly, and secured it in place.
And then…I proceeded to lay awake for the next several hours, unable to fall back asleep. Eventually, I made the decision that it would be better to just get up, pack up, and start my hike earlier than planned. Though that would mean hiking several hours in the dark, I had a good headlamp to light the way, and I reasoned that I’d be able to reach my goal that much sooner. That was not to be the case. An hour into my hike, I somehow lost the trail. The “trail” that I thought I was following began to disappear into the dark until I found myself confronted by a dead-end of fallen trees and massive boulders. This led to 40 minutes of bushwhacking across steep and uneven terrain before I finally connected back up with the proper trail.
This unforeseen detour left me winded and drained. I did my best to convince myself that this was just a minor setback, and I pressed on. An hour later, however, as dawn’s first light began to appear, I had to face the facts that my body wasn’t going to cooperate. The combination of lack of sleep and the energy consumed by my detour had taken its toll. I had to admit to myself that I just didn’t have it in me that day to make it to the top. The wise choice was to turn around and head home. I knew that was the right decision but as I began my descent back down the trail, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure.
A friend of mine recently shared an insight with me that that I’ve been musing on ever since. She said to me, “We often need to let go of our expectations while still holding onto expectancy.” Even when things don’t work out according to our expectations, it doesn’t mean we stop expecting God to be at work and that he has good things for us. We can’t help but have expectations. It’s human nature to do so. I expected, as I went to bed that night in my tent, the next day would result in a successful summit. When those expectations weren’t met, it felt like the whole trip was a waste. But as I made my way down the mountain, the Holy Spirit began to nudge me. “Can you let go of your expectations and receive what I want to give you?” Easier said than done.
I wanted to reach the top of the mountain so that I would feel like I had achieved something that day and enjoy the satisfaction of having accomplished what I set out to do. It was a struggle to let that expectation go. But the Spirit was persistent. He began to reveal to me that the time of solitude that I had experienced with him was a gift. He invited me to look around and take in the beauty of the Creator. He impressed upon me that arriving home earlier than expected would be a blessing to my family and to look for what else he had in store for me that day. With each step, I found myself letting go of my expectations for the day and embracing expectancy for what God had in store for me. What I thought was going to be a failure, turned out to be a great day full of meaningful interactions with family and friends that happened to include a four-mile hike in the midst of God’s beautiful creation as an added bonus.
When expectations aren’t met, it’s easy for us to get discouraged, disappointed, and hopeless. I suspect we have all felt the sting of disappointing expectations at some point in the past 18 months. My hope, however, is that we never stop being expectant; expectant for God to work in our lives, in our circumstances, and in our church, even in the midst of what may feel like failure. The Lord reminded me recently of how much he loves Baseline Community Church and each person who calls Baseline home. Whether or not this church has met your expectations in this season, we can be expectant that He is working to bless, strengthen, and guide us as we move forward together.
So, will you lean in with me and listen for His direction? Will you be on the lookout for what He is up to? Will you pray with expectant hearts for God’s very best for Baseline? Let’s pray this promise over Baseline together: “I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this gracious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Philippians 1:6 (The Passion Translation).