Just like Allen, I was baptized pretty young. I was ten years old and at the time we attended a very conservative church in Oklahoma City. There were several other kids in my class at church who had made the decision to get baptized and like so many situations like it, a buzz started to develop and most of us made the decision.
In my tribe of Churches of Christ, we put a heavy emphasis in this ritual. Most believe there is no salvation without it, while fewer believe there is more symbolism in the act. With the heavy emphasis on baptism as a young man I had a high set of expectations about what would happen as I came out of the water. I would feel different. There would be a change in attitude. I might even have magical powers (hey, I was 10!).
And after my baptism on that May Sunday night, things felt pretty good. I had a brief but purposeful round of applause (can’t clap too long), a hug from my father who baptized me, and congratulatory hugs from the congregation. It was really great – but a pretty short lived high.
Not long after this, my family moved away to Europe and on to my pre-teen and middle school years.
Life moved on.
At such a young age, I am not sure what I really expected from taking on Jesus. My memory tells me the baptism was the important thing to do, but not much was made of the walk after.
When the baptism was the emphasis, the expectations in my 10 year old brain revolved around the amazing feelings I would feel and the perfection attained by the act.
Those expectations were really never met.
My walk with God has been great, but nothing compared to my expectations as a young man.
My walk with God has never looked like what I have heard promised from preachers and christian radio station billboards. In fact, my walk with God has looked quite the opposite.
I have struggled and fought against God more often than not, while the feelings of euphoria and Shalom have proved fleeting. For some Christians, this might seem strange and would make them question whether or not I’m doing it right (and they might be on to something), many Christ followers would make the same assertion.
Because, often our expectations are based upon what we are sold. Rejection, suffering, and shame don’t really sell well. So, many churches – not all – resort to a “prosperity gospel” asserting a life with Jesus will solve all of your problems.
The second verse of our text in Isaiah 43 really tell the truth –
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
It would be wise to notice God didn’t say “if”, but “when”. This life is difficult and God never promised to shield us from the pain of life. What God really promised here is to expect difficulties, but to expect never to be alone.
So in response, what is God’s expectation of us? When we take on a life with Christ, what does God look at us and expect?
To be good folks?
To be free of sin?
To go to church all the time?
To vote Republican?
I’m not sure about all of that, but I feel like a great place to dive into God’s expectation is in Micah 6:8. Throughout the minor prophets, God seemed to be calling his people back to what was really important.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
God has show us that He is good and will never leave us. We can expect that. What does God expect of us?
To be just.
To be merciful.
And, do be humble.
Sometimes when we focus on God’s expectations – in light of his great faithfulness – we find what brings true peace.
How does this strike you? What expectations have you felt God has had of you? How has that changed?