The Middle of the Road

We all have vocal ticks. Favorite words that pop up again and again and again, because they feel good in our mouths. They make us feel smart when they’re big, elegant sounding words.  They make us feel safe when they’re fill-words, like “um,” or “like,” that give us time to think. They can even make us feel connected and intimate with someone when we mimic their words.

Someone once pointed out to me that I use the word “mediocre” quite often. It’s one of my favorites. I love the way it tastes, like a perfectly-cooked hamburger. It even sounds a little meaty! 

But why would it come up so often? Good question.

I think it’s because that’s how I used to see the world. Worse yet, I think that’s how I used to see my own life.

I’ve written before about expectations, but I want to elaborate a little. I think the biggest danger of expectations is that they can handicap our ability to feel joy, pleasure, and comfort in things. They impede our ability to feel surprised or impressed by the quality of something, especially when our expectations are elevated to unrealistic levels. This can be true of a movie we were anticipating, or a meal, or a week at work, or even of a person we meet. When we expect a perfect experience, we are bound to experience naught but disappointment.

When I think of some of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had, I don’t remember having had elevated expectations leading into them. When I think about times when I’ve had high expectations, I can remember being disappointed. But when I really think about it, the only variable that was different between the sets of experiences was myself. The wonderful experiences probably weren’t really any appreciably different than the disappointing ones. I just didn’t have an attitude that was predisposed to being appreciative and joyful.

I have been practically living in the Epistles of Paul these past couple of weeks, and I want to share three verses and explain how I think they relate to mediocrity and expectations:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This verse is about being reborn as something new, and something free from our previous selves. Just because I lived under the shroud of heavy expectations doesn’t mean that I have to continue to be burdened by those things. I can be reborn as something great, and I can choose to see the world differently–as something that is designed to be appreciated.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). To me, this verse means that as a Christian, I am called to greatness, and not to mediocrity. Through God all things are possible–including greatness–and living with that in mind can give purpose, meaning, and joy to things I once would have seen as mediocre.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). This verse is about freedom from sin, but I also think it pertains to my own freedom from the burden of expectations. My own previous self was tethered to disappointment and sadness; I was shackled, and true joy was just out of reach. The freedom that Christ’s love has given me has set me free in the sense that through Him I know peace, hope and joy are within my reach, and that I can find those things with an attitude of thanksgiving and appreciation.

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