bryce-canyon.jpg-royalty-free-stock-photograph.html” title=”Rim bryce canyon”>Rim bryce canyon by Jon Sullivan


Today’s topic is based on a quote from Thomas Keating (Keating, T. Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, p. 76):

“The reason any expectation is a hindrance is that it is a form of clinging, hence a desire to control.”

When I was a senior in high school, I was the one who came up with the idea  accepted for our graduating class motto: “Achievement is our goal.” I think we were reading “Great Expectations” in our literature class that year, so it only seemed natural for us to adopt this as an expectation. After all, we were young and the world was yet to be explored and conquered.

I grew up  in a world of fairy tales as told by Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney. I fully expected to find my prince charming and to live happily ever after. I accepted (and even sought?) the specific frog I would need to kiss. Good thing I was not expecting warts. I expected everyone to be honest, and everything to be fair. I left home, went to college, and became a “flower child”—–I bought into the expectation that the “system” was wrong and we could fix it.

Retrospectively, I was terribly naive. I  have traveled through  many experiences that taught me I cannot control or change anything other than myself. I can plant seeds—-ideas, suggestions, role modeling, etc.—– and sometimes they come into fruition, and sometimes they don’t. Often, the credit for them falls elsewhere. I have learned that I don’t have to be recognized as the initiator of an idea for it to become what it is supposed  to be.

I chose Keating’s quote because yesterday in a book study session focused on Richard Rhor’s “The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See ” (2009) we discussed his suggestions that:

  • God dwells within all of us whether we are aware of it or not
  • We all share the gift of grace and mercy, and nothing can be done to earn it
  • “God is both abyss and ground….the Presence that, paradoxically, always fills the abyss and shakes the ground” (p. 22)

By now, you are probably asking yourself what does any of this have to do with great expectations. I can only tell you what it  means for my spiritual journey. When I stubbornly hold onto my expectations of what things should be like I set myself up for repeated frustration, disappointment, and pain  because it is a fallacy to believe I can control anything other than my own attitudes and responses to reality. Clinging to these expectations is based on my  need to control everything so I can feel safe and secure. The very act of pursuing security this way creates more anxiety, fear, guilt, and anger…..and acts as a barrier keeping me  from letting go, “falling into the abyss” and being caught on the safe ground of God’s love that has been within me all along.

Am I “cling free, peaceful and serene” all  the time now because I have released my expectations to God? No. Each day I am able to let go of a little bit more and to feel a little bit more secure in God’s love. The result is a growing sense of relief and joy as I enter into building relationship with the God  within me and all that is around me.

Please share your thoughts and comments. God bless and keep you.