There is a scene in the indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer where the main character, Tom Hansen – played by Joseph Gordon Levitt – goes to a party his ex is throwing. The screen is split in half: on the left we see what Tom expects will happen (“Expectations”), whilst simultaneously on the right we see what actually happens (“Reality”). As has become clear from the previous hour of the movie, Tom’s expectations rarely meet reality. He is a dreamer, an optimist, a “glass half-full kind of guy”, a hopeless romantic at heart. I am the female version of Tom. I suspect we all are, really. Except for the bitter, pessimistic realists of the world. (No judgement if that is you – I envy your ability to see reality as it is; it must save you a lot of hurt.) I have great expectations, of others, of life, and most especially of myself. And yet, more often than not (if not always), reality doesn’t play out in the way that I expect it will.
In my early teen years I had great expectations of what adult life would be like. I imagined being a “hip”, leather satchel carrying uni student, studying philosophy, history and literature in Hogwarts-esque buildings. I dreamed of backpacking through Europe and Asia, climbing mountains, eating exotic food, visiting historic sights and seeing Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gogh’s paintings with my own eyes. I envisioned moving out of home, living in the city or on the beach with friends. I anticipated independence, having the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I had great plans for myself, for who I would be and what I would do.
Yet, at twenty, my life looks very different than that which I had aspired towards. I’m not at uni, but at bible college studying theology and ministry at diploma level. I still haven’t been overseas (not even to Tasmania!), I’m allergic to most exotic food and my body certainly wouldn’t allow me to do any mountain climbing anytime soon. I’m still living at home in the suburbs, with my family. I don’t feel particularly independent (I don’t even have my drivers license!) and my social activities depend greatly on whether my parents can drive me or on public transport. While I do have some freedom of choice, much of my daily life is dictated by others or by things beyond my control.
What I am realizing though, is that sometimes reality is far better than my expectations. My life may not be as exciting, creative, romantic or adventurous as I would like, but it is still pretty great. I love bible college; I could not be more grateful for the people I have studied and fellowshipped with this year, and for how I’ve grown in my relationship with God. I may not have been overseas, but I regularly adventure to beautiful areas of Sydney and beyond. My health is gradually improving and I may be able to climb mountains and eat exotic food someday. It is a great privilege to live with my family, whose love and support have sustained me through the hardest of times. I appreciate what I have more for having had to fight for it, and though I experience times of pain, depression and loneliness, the good far outweighs the bad.
So I’ve decided that, while it’s ok to dream, it is more fruitful to enjoy the present, to live in the moment and be thankful for what God has blessed me with now. I know that ultimately, my life is in His hands, and that the reality of His purposes are far beyond what I could ever expect. In faith, I surrender my plans to Him and trust that He will use me for His glory.