My sister, Christa, is one of the most wonderful gals I know.
The former Miss Clemson University is beautiful, compassionate, charming, warm, intelligent, creative, fun-loving, and absolutely hilarious. Often, she’ll call and say, “You won’t believe what I just did…” And, sure enough, she’ll proceed to tell me something that is quite hard to imagine.
Like the time her sweet Catholic friend lost everything in a house fire. Christa, of course, asked how she might help. Her friend wanted to replace her pearl rosary beads missing in the rubble. So, as any good Protestant might do, Christa located the nearest Catholic store in Raleigh and drove there. Upon opening the door, Christa smiled at the woman dressed in her black and white habit and inquired how she may go about purchasing a set of pearl “rotisserie” beads?
Christa said it didn’t quite dawn on her what she had asked until Sister Beatrice’s steely glare softened and she managed to mutter, “You mean rosary beads?” Moments later, my phone rang and I could barely make out my sister’s words as she attempted to recount her latest embarrassing moment between laughter and tears.
Such was the case on day one of 2014. Annually, my sister and her family spend the week after Christmas in Aspen, Colorado and, on January 1st, I received a call from Christa with the familiar introduction, “You’re not going to believe what I did last night…”
After enjoying their New Year’s Eve dinner, Christa and her party exited the restaurant and wanted to mark the memory with a photograph. She tapped a stranger, who looked to be attempting to hide a cigarette habit, on his shoulder. The man turned and, seeing the camera in her hand, beamed a megawatt smile. As he moved closer, Christa asked, “Would you mind taking a picture for me?” In hindsight, Christa said he seemed rather stunned.
With her camera in his hand, the thoughtful man backed up to make sure he could fit everyone in and then snapped two photos. He had forgotten the flash on the first. Christa thanked him profusely while her group whispered at how familiar the photographer’s face had looked and how they loved his accent. After the man returned to his table, the Maitre d’ informed my sister the familiarity was reasonable. The stranger was Russell Crowe.
I’ve giggled more than a few mornings this month thinking of how the Lord may be using that moment in the life of Russell Crowe. When Christa approached holding a camera, I’m certain Mr. Crowe fully expected to be asked if his face could be photographed. Expectations can be surprising. They can frustrate us, drive us, help us, or hurt us depending upon where they are placed.
During my morning quiet times, I’ve been reading in Genesis about the life of a biblical superstar, Joseph, and thinking a lot about properly placed expectations. When he was sent by his daddy to search for his brothers, I seriously doubt Joseph expected to be sold into slavery. Yet, not one tantrum is thrown by this kidnapped teen. When falsely accused by Potiphar’s wicked wife and cast into a dingy dungeon, Joseph is not seen curled up in a ball sobbing. He is so confident in God’s sovereignty over his circumstances that Genesis 40:6-7 shows Joseph thinking, not about himself, but his fellow prisoners, “When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they looked distraught. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were in custody with him in his master’s house, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’” Here’s a guy that’s faced one trial after another for years and we find him more concerned about two fellow inmates having a bad day. And, to think, one of these clowns will forget about Joseph’s kindnesses and leave him confined another two years! Still, Joseph never utters, “Why me, Lord?”
Why not? Because Joseph’s unwavering obedience to his faultless Master overrode any expectation he had of fickle man. The life of Joseph is marked by a continual focus outside of himself and onto his Lord.
I don’t know what you’re hoping for today or how many times you’ve been left out, let down, or the last one picked. This same God who was with Joseph is with us. May we get to Chapter 50 of our lives and, like Joseph, say to our betrayers, assailants, adversaries, competitors, and critics, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...” (Genesis 50:20). The Lord’s plan is perfect and, as long as we keep the lens on Him, everything is going to develop far beyond our greatest expectation.