Transformational truth

Having the expectation of forever-be it a lifetime on a career path, a special someone to share life with until “death do us part,” or anything else we believe will have no end-puts us at risk of judging ourselves as failing if something ends. The idea of permanence is an expectation, and I don’t think I need to remind you at this point that the goal is no expectations and no disappointments. Some relationships, jobs, and situations come with expiration dates and, when we reach them, it is time to move on. This can be particularly challenging if we expected that something was going to last forever (or a lot longer than it actually did). Say you bought a carton of yogurt with every intention of eating it. It was the flavor you desired, and it satisfied a craving. You scooped out some for breakfast every once in a while, but it reached its expiration date before you finished the entire carton. Now, you could just leave it in your refrigerator. It wouldn’t really do any damage, but would you want to eat it? No! The window of opportunity would have passed, and it would be time to buy a new yogurt or move on to having oatmeal for breakfast.
My marriage, something I vowed would last forever, had an expiration date. In our six years together, it was very clear that we were supposed to be with each other-but not forever. Shortly after our wedding, we both faced huge Expectation Hangovers that had nothing to do with each other. My husband was 100% the best person to support me during that time, and I was 100% the best person to support him. We both were launching our careers as entrepreneurs, and we were each other’s biggest coaches and cheerleaders. But once our personal issues were resolved and our careers were moving forward with great momentum, it felt like we were done. As much as we both tried to make it work, the directions in which we were headed were not aligned. Making the choice to separate was incredibly difficult- we truly had to have no expectations- but it was also the best thing for both of us.
Kirk was a pastor for fifteen years and loved serving his congregation. He came to see me when he began to feel tremendous guilt over feeling apathetic regarding what he thought would be his lifelong profession. Despite his consistent prayer and efforts to reignite his enthusiasm, it was just not happening. When I offered Kirk the possibility that his current job may have reached an expiration date, he reported feeling relieved yet petrified. This was his life plan-how could it be over? At the same time, he could not deny the inner calling to grow in a different way. When he accepted that his current situation had reached an expiration date, it became clear to Kirk that he no longer wanted to be confined to one community-his call to service felt more expansive. It was time to leave his comfortable and certain role. Kirk had the fulfilling opportunity to mentor a young pastor to take his place and then left the country on an international tour of preaching, volunteering, and uplifting, growth-inspiring experiences. I still receive emails from Kirk in which he shares how grateful he is that he did not stay in a situation just because he thought he should.
Just as we cannot allow our need for certainty to keep us in situations that have reached their expiration date, when something stops feeling right, we can’t just chalk it up to an expiration date. Most of us enjoy new stimuli. This can drive us to jump out of situations prematurely when they have become boring and unchallenging. Every relationship and job requires reinvention and dedication. We have to be willing to put in the effort, especially when things get difficult, which means setting no expectations, rather than allowing our desire for variety to lead us to mislabel something as having reached its expiration date.
That said, the expectation of forever creates tunnel vision that can be limiting and lead to powerful disappointments. Our life curriculum is diverse, and just as we moved from one grade to the next in school, we often move from one relationship, job, or other situation to the next in our lives. You do not have to linger in the unpleasant symptoms of an Expectation Hangover when you know a situation is complete. It may be time to throw away the yogurt.

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