In a conversation with some student friends the other night, someone mentioned that an important part of life is being disappointed. He said that to be fully human we need to allow ourselves to feel disappointment and all the emotions that go along with the experience of not getting what we want.

Another friend strongly objected: “I completely disagree with that,” she said. “I think life is so much better when you have no expectations.”

As I sat between them I felt torn. Cognitively I agreed with the first point: being disappointed and learning how to respond to disappointment in healthy ways is really important.

But, emotionally, I also resonated with my other friend: sometimes the best things in life are the things that surprise us, that we never saw coming, that were unexpected.

Our expectations, especially unrealistic ones, can set us up for pain and disappointment. Sometimes our expectations can keep us from seeing the beauty of the moment, to be fully alive and present to that which is right in front of us.

But, life with no expectations? Is that really the best way to live? Is that essentially life with no hope?

In one of the most brilliantly depressing songs of all time, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) sings: “Every plan is a tiny prayer to father time.”

No matter how much I might want to agree with my second friend, how much I might want to live life with no expectations, I just can’t get away from hope.

Every plan is a prayer, a hope that there will be another moment, another day, another week, another opportunity, another experience, another place where God might show up and do something.

So the question I wrestle with constantly is what do I hope for? What do I place my hope in? Who do I hope in?

Do I place my hope in ideals?
Do I hope for generally good things?
Do I hope in myself and my ability to do good,
to figure things out,
and to make wise decisions?

Yes. All too often, I find myself hoping in these things.

The disciple Peter, Peter who said and did dumb things and who blew it spectacularly, says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Authentic hope is grounded in something beyond ourselves.
It is grounded in Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of new life,
abundant life,
everlasting life.

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