Thursday, July 28, 2011

Misplaced Expectations

What comes to your mind when you hear “summer vacation cottage on Lake Superior”? How about a quaint log cabin nestled in an Upper Peninsula forest with a wraparound porch that overlooks a sandy beachfront? Do you think of warm days of sunshine with cool evenings ripe for a bonfire and a sunset? Yeah… that’s what comes to mind. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

A few years ago, my sister had the great idea of gathering our family members for a weeklong vacation together in the Marquette area of the U.P. She had an acquaintance with access to a “Lake Superior cottage.” I loved the idea as I needed a week of peace, nature, quiet, and rest. So, I allowed my exceptions for this place to climb.

As we drove through the U.P. the day we arrived, my excitement increased more and more. The anticipation of hanging out with my family in this perfect setting was growing with every mile. As we neared our destination, the beautiful blue Lake Superior was in full view. Beautiful cottages sprinkled the roadside and I wondered with each of them, “Will ours be like that one?” But as we turned into the driveway of the “resort” where we’d find our cottage, I realized that my dream and reality were not on the same page. My expectations quickly faded as we explored our home for the week. The resort, as they called it, was a charter fishing resort. Old rickety boats, trailers, and boat parts were scattered over the property. It looked like a place where boats went to die. It looked like a place where seasoned fisherman would bunk up before a fishing excursion. It looked nothing like the place I had envisioned.

As we made our way into our cabin, my hopes continued to decline. The cottage was a refurbished modular home, well out of view of Lake Superior. It was adequate, but not very nice. It smelled musty from old furnishings and a leaky basement. Even the mattresses were disappointing as they were covered with plastic, making for noisy nights of sleep. “How would this place work for helping my family have a memorable and relaxing vacation?” I wondered.

What happens to you when life doesn’t pan out as planned? What happens to you…when the offer for the job you know perfectly fits you, never comes? …when the very best doctors scratch their heads in confusion about your medical situation? …when every home for sale in your neighborhood sells but yours? …when your scholarship athlete busts up his knee before his senior season? …the stupid car breaks down for the third time in a month? Even more, what happens to you when you grow disappointed in God?

Recently I talked to a man who, in a matter of minutes, described his life as “not panning out.” He was a broken man in his 60s living with a continual sense of disappointment. He said, “I have a lot of agonistic in me right now. I just don’t think God gives a ____ about me.” Here’s a man who let life’s disappointments defeat him. Because his expectations in life were not met, he chose to stop following God. He’s a man who is missing the opportunity to grow in his relationship with God.

Back to that stinky little cabin in the U.P. for a moment. As it turned out, that week of vacation has radically shaped the Niekerk family. In that week, my oldest daughter chose to attend Northern Michigan University. She just graduated this spring and she and her husband still live in that area as he finishes his schooling. My second daughter will be starting her third year at NMU this fall. She has fallen in love with school and that area. And, my 17 year old son is making plans to attend NMU as well. Needless to say, we have spent, and will continue to spend, many of our vacation days in that area—though not in that particular cabin. We love every minute we spend in the U.P. It’s a place of joy, family, peace, and rest to us. Ironically, that was my original hope, wasn’t it? God gave us more in that trip than I ever dreamed. Looking back, I now see that my expectations were misplaced and my dreams were too small. God had something much more valuable to give my family that week.

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