Thursday, August 30, 2012

Expectations vs. Desires

In our marriage, Michael is typically the optimist and I'm typically the pessimist realist. My mother raised me under the expression "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." So that's how I have always approached events in my life. For example, I was a very good student throughout my years of school. I don't mean to sound pompous, but just state the fact that I generally performed well in whatever class I took (there were certainly exceptions!). But nearly every time I would take an exam, even if the exam felt extremely easy to me, I would tell myself that I probably failed -- preparing for the worst, right? Then when the test score would be anything above passing, I'd be thrilled.

I don't necessarily like this viewpoint. In my opinion, viewing life this way causes one to sound like a negative person. Always saying things (either to others or to yourself) like, "There's no way we're pregnant this month" or "I doubt it'll happen this month" has only made me feel like I'm a Negative Nancy. And even though I tell myself those negative things, my hopeful heart cannot be contained sometimes. For instance, I'll take a pregnancy test a day before my period is supposed to start, of course it's negative, which disappoints me in the moment, but there's still this little, stubborn, hopeful part of me that thinks, maybe it's wrong. And when my period doesn't start right when I think it's supposed to, I'm convinced I must be pregnant. Then hours later or the next day when my period finally starts, it's heartbreaking, and I feel so stupid for thinking the test could be wrong when it hasn't lied to me yet.

So needless to say, I struggle a lot with how to keep my hopes high, without getting them too high so it doesn't hurt as bad when I fall down with disappointment, or when the captain of the red team, Aunt Flow, sends me hurtling back down to reality.

What's the right approach for my attitude? Should I just say the words "I'm pregnant!" just to feel what that feels like? To speak that into existence through faith?

How do you stay positive, without getting your hopes up too high? How much is too hopeful? When does hopeful become delusional and setting yourself up for depression-type disappointment?

I asked Michael about this, and as usual, I just love the wisdom he shares with me. He has a God-given and natural ability to be able to put things into words in a way that are so helpful to me. He said in my situation, it seems like what I'm doing is having expectations rather than desires. Like I'm expecting either extreme: to be pregnant or not to be pregnant. I'm either telling myself "Yes, this must be it!" or "No way, not happening!" When instead, my thoughts and attitude should be one of desires, not expectations. He said having a desire to have children is a good desire. It's biblical. It's godly. It's good. God wants us to desire children. So just stop it at that - at the point of expressing my desires - before it turns into expectations, into the two extremes.


Sometimes something can be so simple, but so difficult to figure out for yourself. This was one of those things for me. In fact, it made me realize that for my whole life, I had been viewing events with expectations, with the two extremes. I misinterpreted the the "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst" mantra. Hoping for the best is having a desire for the best. Having a desire for the thing you want. I'll come back to the second part of the mantra in a moment.

What differentiates expectations from desires? Sometimes a simple Google search is all that's needed to provide some needed perspective.

Expectation: A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
Desire: A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.

So both attitudes are strong in their feelings. But the difference is believing something will for sure happen, and the other is stopping it at wanting or wishing for the thing to happen, not depending or relying on the certainty of that said thing happening.

In summary, it's GOOD to desire to have children, but NOT GOOD to expect to have children. Or in my case, to expect that we'll have children this month. Or next month. Or next month. So what I've been doing since Michael helped me realize this flaw in my attitude is every time I have a thought about wanting to have children or wondering if I might be pregnant at this very moment, I stop and pray the following:

God, I strongly desire to have children. Please give me strength to be patient and to wait for Your timing. If this month is not the time You have chosen to give us a child, please prepare my heart for that disappointment.

This past April, during National Infertility Awareness Week, I posted the following picture on Facebook to raise awareness about the average number of times per week that I think about my desire to have children. I actually counted, and wrote a tally mark on my arm to keep a running total.  So as you can see, this gives you an idea of how many times each day that I end up saying that prayer. A. W.H.O.L.E. L.O.T.


The "but prepare for the worst" part of the mantra was the part that I really had wrong. It doesn't have to mean "be super negative about everything", it could simply mean allowing yourself to think through what you would do if the thing you're hoping for doesn't happen. How would you handle it? What would you do? It does NOT mean you should tell yourself "It definitely won't happen."

So again, thanks to my husband's encouragement and wisdom yesterday, he suggested that I allow myself time each month to be sad for a moment. Because my desire to have children is a desire God wants me to have, it's okay, it's a good thing even, to feel sad when that desire is not answered or given. He suggested I take some time, actually plan some time and be intentional about it, to be sad. And then move on, let it go for that month, and then strive to be hopeful the rest of the time.

Again, it sounds simple, but it's something I had never done before. Sure, I usually ended up by myself in a closet, curled up in a fetal position on the floor, sobbing, but that wasn't planned or intended. So my new plan of action for this is to set aside time every month, when my monthly disappointment arrives, to be sad. I plan to sit somewhere by myself, with a Bible and Kleenex nearby, and a journal and pen ready to write my feelings out. I may even try to write letters to my future children, or simply write my desires for my children out on paper. To celebrate the beautiful fact that God has given me this desire, that perhaps doesn't come naturally to others. To be sad. To be allowed to be sad. For a moment. For a specific, planned, intentional moment.

1 comment:

  1. Christine, I love this post. Michael was right on! Have you heard of Kari Jobe? Her music is great--songs that confess the truth of who God is and His love for us. That He is worthy of trust. Every month when the sadness and disappointment hit me, I turn on her CDs and sing to my God about how I will keep trusting Him even though I don't understand His plans. Love you, sister!