It was just after the peak of the afternoon, the sun began to teeter to the side of the sky and the shadows began to stretch, the cool of the evening so far yet so close. Yet, for me the opportunities of the day were just beginning.
The temple was bustling with activity as Jews came to offer their third and final prayers for the day, I asked a few of them to carry me to the gate and they carelessly slid me onto the ground to the left of the entryway. Every day, three times a day, I would sit on the dusty bricks, watching religious passer-bys solemnly walk through the Beautiful Gate. Occasionally one would stop, their pity bringing them to drop a few coins into my outstretched hand. But I hardly noticed, as I would still gaze longingly at the people walking by, unaware of the privilege they had of being able to walk into the temple.
Yet, that afternoon, as I situated myself on my normal span of brick, I noticed something different. Two men walked by who seemed to be the only ones truly awake. They were chatting amongst themselves, smiling at people as they passed by, even excited to enter the temple for prayer. I knew they would be compassionate on me, so when one of the men turned and met my eyes I reached out my hand, expectantly.
The moment seemed to linger, just as the sun lingered in the sky. A smile crept across the mans face but he didn’t reach for his coin purse. Instead, he reached out his hand and grabbed my outstretched hand.
“I have no silver and gold but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
What did he just say? I had never stood on my own, let alone walked…in my entire life! But, I barely had time to object as he pulled me up.
And as he did, something INCREDIBLE happened. Instead of dragging behind my torso, my legs strengthened beneath me. I could feel my muscles pushing me upward, my knees straightening, and the warmth of the blood pumping all the way to my toes. When I got to the point of standing I didn’t stop there, my legs continued to push me up until I was in the midst of a full-on leap!
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I couldn’t stop trying out my new legs: leaping, dancing, running! The two mysterious men laughed and rejoiced with me, encouraging me to keep going.
Not even the Beautiful Gate could stop me now. I bolted across the threshold into the temple for the first time, nearly running into the men who had carried me to the gate just a few minutes before. All the other religious men stopped what they were doing and stared, but I didn’t care.
I had approached the day expecting a few coins, but what I received was so far beyond that, a new life!
(Paraphrase from Acts 3:1-10)
Discovery sometimes happens by accident but most times, like the miracle of the lame man walking, discovery seems to come as a result of expectation. If this morning I hadn’t expected to find raging melodic waters crashing from a cliff, I wouldn’t have followed the path that said “waterfall” for forty-five minutes. Yet, someone at some point experienced this discovery without the signs. Someone stumbled upon this beautiful gift, either completely by chance or with a rhythm of hope beating in their heart that they would see something breathtaking that day. I like to believe the latter. After all, what would bring someone this deep into the jungle besides the lure of adventure, the anticipation of something more than plants dirt and bugs?
I have gone through waves of embracing expectation and avoiding it, knowing that it leads to discovery but also fearing the disappointment that it can bring. Especially when your life is an unpredictable charade of following Jesus outside of your comfort zone, you can become jaded with expecting a season, a place, a day to go a certain way and having it turn out completely different. At times expectation feels like a fire that burns me rather than burning within me.
So should I just give up expecting? Should I cease imagining and just surrender myself to whatever life throws my way?
This is something I’ve been wrestling with lately: how to continue to put expectation on God to move in my life (which essentially is having faith), without drawing up my own scenario for what it looks like when He does.
When we stop expecting SOMETHING our hearts grow cold and hope withers away. We become shells, not allowing ourselves to really desire anything. I’ve realized I can’t let the disappointment of unmet expectations keep me from expecting.
The waterfall I enjoyed this morning would not have been discovered had the explorer not begun to follow the stream deep into the heart of the woods. The lame man in Acts would not have been healed had he not raised his eyes and held out his hand in anticipation. Neither of these people found what they expected at the end of the day, but I’m confident that they did not go to bed that night disappointed at what they found.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
It’s time to let go of our own imaginations and put an expectation on God to do something DIFFERENT and BETTER then our little minds can conjure up. We can’t put our faith in the natural world to line up with what our heart’s desire, instead we must continually place our faith in knowing that He always has healing, discovery, growth, beauty, victory just around the corner! So lift your eyes! Hold open your hands! And allow the adventure of the unknown lure you into the midst of a beautiful discovery!