Early in my first African sojourn, I was traversing a grassy knoll toward a village when I looked up and saw a young man exit his home. The simple house was built entirely of thick, dark-brown mud bricks; the man burst out the door in dazzling, pure-white robes. My expectations had never foreseen such a stunning contrast.
Earlier, in Paris, I had planned a rendezvous with Denise, a young professional Frenchwoman I had met in the States. A picture of modern chic, she invited me to her home outside the city. Though delightful, the home was not at all what I expected—a rustic, working farm whose quaint abode dated from the mid-1800s.
The realities of life that do not match our expectations surprise us and, almost involuntarily, we gasp with delight or sigh with disappointment. The word expectation implies a considerable degree of confidence that something will happen. So often in this earthy, earthly home of ours, we subconsciously expect a problem-free existence. Why else would troubles catch us off-guard? I understood when my friend Jeanne mistakenly prayed, “Lord, grant us your perfect pieces [peace] in our lives.”
William Shakespeare expressed a much more realistic view of life when he said, “Comfort’s in heaven, and we are on the earth, where nothing lives but crosses, cares and grief.” Notwithstanding, we doggedly hope for a heaven on earth. Few, however, can describe their lives that way—to the contrary! Nevertheless, that longing for a perfect, peaceful, problem-free existence seems to be a heart desire planted in us by a Creator who has just that in mind for us—in His way and His time.
True life often resembles one of the marathon journeys that my husband and I take once a year. We travel for three weeks to visit friends who support our ministry. Our stops along the way, though enjoyable, also include hearing first-hand about heartaches, disappointments, and challenges. People who are spared such experiences are exceedingly rare. The road Home is always bumpy.
At the end of one particularly demanding trip, we were headed south on I-77 toward Charlotte, North Carolina. I could hardly wait to get home. We entered a long, black tunnel, watching the pinhead-sized point of light at the end grow bigger by the second. Finally emerging into the blinding brightness of day, we were greeted by a cheery sign: “Welcome to Virginia!” Not far to go now, I thought, remembering the narrow passage we would cross on the eastern side of the state. We raced down the tree-covered mountain, which resembled a fantastic quilt with puffy patches of every fall color. Two hours later, evening darkened the sky. Peering down the road toward Charlotte, I spied two indistinct but recognizable gray blobs on the hazy horizon—the uptown skyscrapers. Home! An expectation fulfilled.
My excited expectation of reaching home reminded me of one of the few expectations that will never disappoint me—eternity in Heaven. In Romans 8:18-19, the author says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Creation itself waits expectantly for deliverance from its suffering. It waits with confidence.
We too need to wait for Perfection to come, when our trials will be over. John R. W. Stott, in Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, talks about “the familiar and inescapable tension between the already and the not yet, kingdom come and kingdom coming, the new age inaugurated and the new age consummated.” We look forward, we expect the fulfillment of that glorious future that for now is, by faith, suspended in our minds.
Isaiah, perhaps impatient for that day, cried out to God, Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before You! …For when You did awesome things that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains trembled before You. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64: 1, 3-4, emphasis mine).
When I read such promises, I can only gasp in delight and anticipation, for through them I can see the ever-brightening lights of my heavenly Home, and I fully expect I will not be disappointed.