Before it began last week, the Middle East peace conference was greeted by many with low expectations for accomplishing much that would be genuinely helpful. After the conference began, however, a more expectant tone emerged.
This newspaper, reporting on the first day of the meetings, carried the article, "Mideast peace gets new push" (Nov. 28). It noted that Arabs and Israelis sat down together formally for only the second time in history. The story included the announcement that "the two sides would begin regular bilateral negotiations on Dec. 12," trying to reach an accord by the end of next year."
As I listened to officials and analysts after these first meetings, I asked myself, how can we keep rightful expectations alive and not fall into mere wishful thinking or, worse yet, fall back into low expectations for peace in the Middle East?
A verse in the Bible says, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him" (Ps. 62:5). When we look to God not only to fulfill our expectations but also to form them, fear begins to disappear. We become confident that whatever the issue, God is in control, often lifting our desires higher and always bringing them to fruition. We stop human outlining and relinquish our desires to the Deity that "outlines but is not outlined" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 591).
Expecting good, we quickly recognize and support new right ideas. We're freed from the doom and despair of expecting failure.
One time I was very concerned as I anticipated a meeting that was going to be held in my home. There was a lot of potential for misunderstandings and hurt. But as I prayed, the thought came to me that my real expectations were of God, and I could trust that. Every time some worry would come to mind, I would acknowledge to myself that my expectation is from God. This trust brought relief and real joy. It turned out to be quite a wonderful and carefree day. Not everything went just the way I'd wanted it to, but things went well. There was give and take with each person participating. This was an eye-opener for me, and ever since I've found peace by turning to God, universal divine Love, to determine my expectations and to fulfill them.
Expectations from God are more, far more, than simply good, hopeful thoughts related to favorable circumstances. Actual spiritually inspired expectations may demand periods of waiting and flexibility. Rightful expectations are not pie in the sky. Mary Baker Eddy's book "Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896" includes this advice: "…we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good…" (p. 224).
Appreciating the fact that so many parties in the Middle East were finally willing to sit together and begin a new peace process, we can work to keep our expectations alive and reliant on the source of good, God. This prevents the debilitating disappointment that comes from too high and impractical hopes. And it also protects us from equally debilitating cynicism. I, as one of many, feel certain that someday the whole world will live in peace. And progress toward this is what I expect from every inspired step toward universal harmony.
The Bible says, "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" (Jer. 29:11). The conclusion of last week's meetings answers the question "What did you expect?" not with a cynical shrug of "I didn't expect anything good anyway," but with the assurance that a step of progress toward peace has been taken. Expectations impelled by God are fulfilled by this same divine Principle, Love.