Great expectations?

What expectations do you have in life? How do they affect you?

I learnt to juggle when I was around 12 years old, and it didn’t take long. Partly that’s because young people pick up new skills quickly, and partly it’s because juggling isn’t really very difficult. Over Easter I spent a bit of time trying to learn to ride a unicycle, and it was much harder. I suffered from a combination of being almost a decade older, and unicycling being a much more challenging skill to learn.

To give you an idea of the progress I made from a week of regular practice, I have progressed from sitting on the unicycle holding onto two stationary objects to being able to cycle while holding onto a wall for a few feet before falling off. It’s slow progress, but I’m happy with it. Why? Because I read on the internet that unicycling is a difficult skill to learn, and takes a lot of practice. Also, a friend who is able to unicycle told that there was no shortcut which could remove the need to practice. I started to learn with the expectation of a difficult challenge, so when I made a small amount of progress I was pleased about it.

Imagine if my expectations had been different. Imagine I’d expected to be a skilled rider at the end of the week, perhaps learning to perform basic tricks. Imagine if I’d gone to a skate park, and tried unicycling up a ramp. It wouldn’t have ended well for me, that’ s for sure! Having the right expectations was important for how I felt about my progress, and is important for how we feel about life more generally.

What expectations should Christians have of what their lives will be like? Do we expect life as a Christian to be no different from anyone else’s life? Do we expect to radically and rapidly transform into a state of joyous perfection? Do we expect some compromise between the two, or perhaps a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs?

I continually forget what the Christian life is like. I’ve been a Christian for years, but still my expectations get warped out of all reality. I typically find myself making one of two mistakes – either expecting an easy life or expecting life to be so hard I can never progress.

The Christian life isn’t an easy one. Even without any external suffering (and there is no guarantee of freedom from that) there is a constant battle with sin. No Christian is free from it, and only an unhealthy Christian doesn’t keenly feel it. When I forget to expect this, I am discouraged by my frequent failures to live up to my own moral standards, let alone God’s! But when I remember to expect it, I can turn to God for help fighting my sin. I can remind myself that it is God who works in and through me, and it is God who makes me progressively more holy. And I can have joy in the fight.

The opposite mistake could actually be viewed as the flip side of the same wrong expectation. It is remembering that there is a fight to be had, but forgetting to actually fight it! When I forget that progress is to be expected, and expect stagnation, I am essentially surrendering the fight. I despair at my sinfulness, and my helplessness to change it. But when I remember to expect change, I can turn to God for the necessary power to change. While I still acknowledge my weakness and inability to change, I can remind myself of the God who is changing me. And I can have joy in the change.

Getting the right expectations matter. They protect me from expecting too much, and the discouragement which comes when I don’t live up to my own expectations. They protect me from expecting too little, and missing out on progress God is delighted to give me. I need the right expectations. I need gospel expectations.

What expectations do you think are important in your life?

(For the articles which inspired this one, see The secret cause of discouragement and How to turn ordinary experiences into extraordinary ones, both by Joshua Hood.)

hullabaloo dilemma

At the moment I have a bit of a dilemma regarding the best use of a Wednesday evening. On the one hand is the Leeds juggling club, Hullabaloo. On the other hand, my home church has moved the Bible study and prayer meeting to a Wednesday. I don’t know a great number of people at Hullabaloo, but that’s a situation I want to rectify. There is a great mix of people, some of whom are very friendly, and some of whom are surly to say the least.

The Bible study has been a regular commitment for the last several years of my life for good reason. It gives me a focus on the spiritual while Sunday is still days away. It provides an opportunity to learn from the Bible and enjoy the fellowship and wisdom of older believers. It is the only time the whole church can come together for regular prayer. It helps form the habit of prioritising God (and the local church) above other aspects of life.

My dilemma arises because I rarely see my non-Christian friends. I’m notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people at the best of times when I don’t see them on a regular basis, and changing school before A-levels made it much harder. My friends at the school I studied GCSEs at changed a huge amount over the next two years, and became completely different people. I daresay the same happened to me. The friendships which had been built were never destroyed, but simply disappeared. The friends I made at the school where I did my A-levels were great guys, but only knew me for two years before we parted, and given they had known all their other friends for seven years I was never as close to them. I’m on good terms with my neighbours, but don’t see them too frequently.

Combine this with a full time job and chances to chat become much scarcer. This results in a distinct scarcity of opportunities to share Jesus with others. The Bible study benefits me; evangelism benefits both me and others. Having said that, evangelism will surely be most glorifying to God coming from a life of dedication to sanctification. My dilemma is not between studying the Bible and evangelising. My dilemma is between a church meeting and building friendships from which evangelism can arise. I don’t want to be a hit and run evangelist, but a genuine friend speaking from love for the Lord and concern for the souls of my fellow jugglers.

I’ve had varied advice from people I respect, so it wouldn’t hurt me to have more if people have opinions they want to share. The comment box is waiting.

Further reading on evangelism: http://joshsendlessthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-hast-thou-done.html

Cinematic juggling videos

The World Juggling Federation has recently had a competition to make videos of juggling set to a specific piece of music. The music is very dramatic and theatrical, so naturally the videos are too. The top three of the competition have been put on youtube for your viewing pleasure. Be aware the all use the same music. I’ve put them in order of my preference, with Daniel’s video being my favourite.

Daniel Brown (3rd place)

Lauge Benjaminsen (1st place)

Noah Malone (2nd place)