Last week our firstborn celebrated one year of life. As a result, I have been reflecting on the first year of his life and our expectations prior to his birth. The months, weeks and days before he was born were bursting with anticipation. We bought the necessities, decorated his room and took classes, all in – what turned out to be a futile – attempt to prepare for his arrival.
You see, having a baby is one of those things that you cannot possibly be prepared for. People will tell you, as you are expecting your first child that you can never be completely ready for the great disruption a child will bring to your routine. They will tell you that raising a little one is difficult. You will think you understand, that you are ready, but it is impossible to comprehend these things until you have experienced it yourself.
We knew it would be hard, but we had this vague, undefined idea of what hard would be. We had no idea that jaundice would send us back for one more cramped night in the hospital. We didn’t know that we would have twelve months of expensive hypoallergenic formula, ten months of medication for acid reflux, six weeks in a pavlik harness for hip dysplasia, and two eight to twelve week stints in a doc band to correct a flat head. I didn’t know that I would spend more nights than I care to admit lashing out at God because acid reflux made feedings painful for Caiden or a cold and ear infection kept him from being able to sleep. If I am honest having a child was nothing like I had imagined.
This reflection comes in the middle of advent, a season of expectation. Imagine for a moment the Israelites two thousand years ago. For hundreds of the years they lived as a conquered people. From the Babylonians to Alexander the Great to the Romans, the Israelites lived under almost constant oppression, and this environment was the catalyst for the aching expectation of the Messiah. The Messiah was expected to come as a conquering hero, bringing freedom and restoring Israel, so the world would know they were the people of God.
But the Messiah didn’t arrive in a chariot or on the back of a horse. He arrived in a manger in Bethlehem. He didn’t come armed with a sword or a spear. He came in the form of a helpless baby. He didn’t come dressed in the robe of a king or a suit of armor; he came into this world naked and was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
This reflection leads me to wonder if I place unfair expectations on the way God will come and move in my heart and life. Do I have a restricting expectation on how God will move in the people and the world around me? Do I miss the opportunity to join him in action because I am blinded by my expectations?
If I am honest, the answer is often yes. My expectations of God are idealistic and unrealistic. I will most likely be disappointed by the way God chooses to act, but it’s okay. You see, there is a second thing that people tell you about having a baby that you just cannot understand until you experience it, and that is just how much you will love that little goober.
The first time you see and hold that miracle of life you realize that there is nothing that you wouldn’t do for him. There is no sacrifice too big, no challenge too difficult for this love. You realize that it doesn’t matter that your expectations were dashed on the rocks of reality because this gift – the gift of a child, the gift of life, the gift of God’s love active and present – is so much greater than you could have possibly imagined.