Faces on Faith: Adjusted expectations
At the beginning of last year, I had several plans for very special events. A gathering of my religious order at the place of our birth on an island off the coast of Maine. An international conference hosted by one of my professional organizations, Spiritual Directors International in Santa Fe. And the Rotary Club’s international convention to be held in Honolulu. That’s what I expected to happen over this past year, but none of it came to pass. At least not as planned. Both the religious order gathering and the conference were postponed to 2021, and the Rotary convention was held virtually. Obviously, it was a big disappointment for me personally, but having had to readjust any number of meetings, classes and services this year myself, albeit for much smaller numbers of people, I can only imagine what a headache it must have been for the organizers of these, and so many other large gatherings!
I read an article last week written by the executive director of Al-Anon Family Groups, a 12-step support program for families and friends of alcoholics, which was scheduled to hold its international World Service Conference in late April. But by March it was obvious it would need to change direction. Ironically, the theme of the convention was to be “Dreaming Big with 20/20 Vision.” But despite that, no one saw the pandemic coming! It couldn’t cancel, because there was important business that needed to be conducted. So, it had four weeks to plan its first ever virtual/electronic convention.
Needless to say, there were times of frustration, and near panic as all the details were ironed out and communicated to those who had planned on attending. But Executive Director Vali Fayen soon realized that she needed to stop focusing so much on “plans delayed, errors made and frustrations shared.” Instead, she readjusted her expectations, and she began meditating on the words of Al-Anon’s first employee who spoke at her retirement of what had seen her through the ups and downs of starting a new organization. “There is a word,” she said, “I heard at my earliest meetings: agape — the brotherly or spiritual love of one human being to another … “ (“2020: The Year of Adjusted Expectations,” The Forum, December 2020)
Perhaps as we continue to move through this second year of the pandemic, we would do well to follow her example, and adjust our expectations and live in this day. And not only that, but do it in love. Agape love, not romantic love, not Hollywood love, but love that is expressed in our actions. Love which comes from God and allows us to see our fellow human beings as sisters and brothers.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.