"March is the month of expectation," wrote Emily Dickinson. I would like to think that every month is. And for that matter, every day.
But what do we expect?
I've been giving more attention to what I expect out of my time spent praying and listening to God. In our fast-paced world, one that is filled with intimidating circumstances, it's tempting to begin each day expecting little or no progress.
In the past few months, I've learned a lesson from an unexpected source about expectancy, which has refocused and refined the way I pray.
When I ask our large mountain dog if he wants to go for a walk, he looks at me with all the joyous expectation a dog can muster. Each day is new – his reaction is one of excitement, as if this is the best thing that anyone ever asked him. His big brown eyes meet mine with earnestness, devotion, and attention.
He doesn't know if the walk will be a short stroll or a longer romp off-leash in conservation land. And despite hundreds of walks, his reaction is never ho hum, never, "Oh yeah, that again."
And so I have been inspired to meet each day in my prayer with the same hopeful expectancy. I encourage myself to listen to God, anticipating progress and healing. Some lines from a hymn best describe what I've been doing:
Come we daily then, dear Father,
Open hearts and willing hands,
Eager ears, expectant, joyful,
Ready for Thy right commands.
(Elizabeth C. Adams, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 58)
Expectancy prepares us to be receptive. Receptivity, which the hymn describes as "eager ears," enables us to hear God's commands and be guided by His voice.
This spiritual expectancy is most needed when difficult situations drag on. Yet the promise of progress and healing are given to us in the Bible: "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day" (Ps. 25:5).
I had a small yet important illustration of this over the holidays when my stepdaughter came for a visit.
Being together has never been easy for either of us. While we have never exhibited outward ill feelings toward each other, our relationship has been strained and awkward. I would get tense, and I'm sure she felt it. It had been that way for years.
But her visit over Christmas was different. I had expected it to be different – not just a well-meaning human desire but a spiritually based desire for something to be different.
In preparation, I read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and took each one of his counsels to heart – especially the instruction not to judge.
I listened to God to hear what He would say about us. I looked to divine Love to understand what our Father-Mother knows about us.
I knew that we both were His daughters, loved, loving, and lovable.
That love was proved in a delightfully relaxed visit. I felt a genuine compassion and love for her.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "When the destination is desirable, expectation speeds our progress" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 426).
Beginning each day with a greater expectancy of good will bless us all. It is our divine right to expect these blessings.
I know the thoughts
that I think toward you,
saith the Lord,
thoughts of peace,
and not of evil,
to give you an expected end.