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  • Kelly Sankowski

Adjusting Expectations

As someone 2,000+ years removed from Christ’s death and resurrection, I can find it easy to chuckle at the apostles’ lack of understanding in today’s first reading. I have the benefit of hindsight; of the Church’s entire established tradition and theology behind me. When they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “You’ve really missed the point, haven’t you?”

I can see that they are still holding onto the ideas and hopes they had previously held about who the Messiah would be – someone who would restore the literal, earthly kingdom to the people of Israel. And after centuries of constant displacement and domination – most recently by the Roman Empire – I can understand why this is a deep desire of theirs. Yet, it is striking that Jesus’s whole life and teaching about the kingdom of God has passed and they are still asking the same questions, as if they are unchanged by their encounter with him.

Surely Jesus, too, notices this. He is about to ascend into Heaven, never again to see them in the flesh, and this is what his apostles ask him. If he were only human, he’d likely respond, “Did I do all of this for nothing?” But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even give them a hard “No” to their question. He just reminds them that it is out of their control, trusting that with the power of the Holy Spirit, they will come to understand – and to carry on his mission – in their own time.

Since I am a planner, I know I would probably act the same way as the apostles – wondering when God was finally going to come around to fulfill the plan that I had set in place for my life. I also know that when we are in survival mode – like the apostles probably were after having so much trauma and turmoil following Jesus’s crucifixion – it is not the most conducive time for reflection and discernment. 

When we are in the thick of a new, difficult season of life, such as a big move, the death of a loved one, a new job, or the postpartum haze, it can be so confusing to wade through what is happening, and we make it up as we go. The confusion can feel so different than what our initial expectations had been for this time of our life. Sometimes it takes a long time for our expectations to adjust to what we see and learn through our lived experience.

So many of the best gifts in my life have been surprises – things that I might have missed if I held onto my own plans too tightly. And I imagine there are movements of God that I have indeed missed because of my tendency to want to control how things happen, or because of a lack of time and space given toward discernment.

As I reflect on this, I am asking myself, what are the current expectations that I am holding for God’s action in my life? Where have I actually witnessed the Holy Spirit being present recently? And is God trying to show me a different, more life-giving path through those experiences?

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