Have you ever had your hopes deflated by unrealized expectations? You think one thing is going to happen, and then you get blindsided by something that sends you into a tail spin.
How do you respond? How do you feel and think about God in that moment? How do you move forward with this “new normal?”
John’s Failed Expectations
This is where John the Baptist finds himself in our text from the Narrative Lectionary this week in Luke 7:18-35. He has been preaching about the coming Messiah since Luke 3. He believed that the Messiah would deliver the nation of Israel from the clutches of the oppressive Roman Empire, set the captives free, and establish them as God’s holy nation once again.
And he thought Jesus was the guy.
Now, John rots in prison because the corrupt King Herod is mad at him.
This was not what John expected, so he sends some of his disciples to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? (Luke 7:20)’
A Convergence of Things
One of my spiritual practices is to try to pay attention to moments and ideas that happen simultaneously and see if they are connected in a way that God might be trying to communicate something through the convergence: an event in my life, the assigned text for the day, a blog post I read, etc. I take these things and bring them into conversation with each other.
That happened today.
First, I read the text mentioned above: thwarted expectations. Second, I read the reading for today found in Jeremiah 17:14-18 (Jeremiah is perplexed at the lack of response from his preaching). Third, I experience a curve ball in my own life (more about that at another time). Fourth, this morning I had a conversation with my daughter about reframing some negative experiences. Finally, I read Richard Rohr’s meditation for today.
Rohr is currently writing a series about the necessity and power of contemplation. Today he writes,
Contemplation helps us to naturally tap into “the mind of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). This new perspective and foundation allows us to see things for what they really are—and for what they are not. It is indeed a radical perceptual shift, metanoia, or conversion. For most of us, conversion is not a one-time event; it happens again and again throughout our lives at ever new levels of insight. I am almost 74, and it still seems like a daily event. (read the whole meditation)
John needed a conversion. He thought Jesus’ Messiahship would be one thing, but Jesus threw him a curve ball. Jesus would not overthrow the violence and injustice of Rome with a violent revolution. Jesus would connect with the outcasts, heal the sick, and, ultimately, absorb the violence on the cross. He would overthrow violence with peace, and hatred with love.
But John stays in prison and gets his head chopped off.
Life doesn’t always go the way we plan it or want it to go. We can’t change things that are outside of our control. The only thing we can do is engage in the discipline of slowing down, entering into contemplative prayer, “waking up” to the deeper reality of God’s presence in all circumstances, and be converted again.
Easier said than done, I know.
However, as I try to breathe deeply today, I am comforted by these words and hope that you and I can be ever-more converted into the flow of God’s love, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the world.