Epiphanies and Expectations

Epiphanies and Expectations

Charity’s January 2020 Newsletter

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies.”

John Milton

Though denominations vary in the date or length of time they celebrate the event, Christians worldwide recognize this time in the new year as the celebration of Epiphany, or the revelation of God incarnate. The word epiphany comes from the Greek word epipháneia, meaning manifestation or appearance. The feast of Epiphany is associated with the Biblical narratives of the wise men visiting Jesus as well as Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan and marks the conclusion of what many Christians know as the advent season, a time of preparation and expectant waiting for the Christmas nativity and second coming of Christ. Although the seasons of advent and epiphany, at least as I have known them, are celebrated within the Christian community, it seems to me that “expectant waiting and preparation” for a “manifestation or appearance” is something we can all relate to, no matter our faith or cultural background.

The word Advent comes from the Latin terms adventus, which means “arrival”, and advenire, which means “to come”. As this season concludes and we begin a new year, I can’t help but ask, “What are we waiting for?”.

Children often know the sense of waiting for the school day to end or their parent to arrive home after a long day of work. Teens may be waiting for that secret crush to remember their name and ask them out or for their parents to buy them a car now that they’ve passed their driving exam. As adults, you may find yourself waiting for that promotion that you’ve worked so hard for or waiting for a long overdue apology from a friend who offended you and has yet to take responsibility for their harsh words.

Whatever it may be, the reality is that we all find ourselves waiting from time to time and depending upon how we view that expectancy, we also prepare and look for certain things accordingly. The preparations we engage in are based upon what we expect. So, if we expect the very best, we are likely to prepare with a spirit of celebration and joy while if we expect the worst, we are likely to experience a sense of pending doom and be filled with dread.

What we expect not only informs how we prepare but also determines what we look for. In psychology, this is known as confirmation bias meaning that our attention is naturally drawn toward those aspects of our experience that confirm what we already think and believe. In short, our epiphanies are largely determined by our expectations. If we expect failure, then we are likely to notice every misstep or shortcoming along the way to our goal. If we expect our significant other to be inconsiderate and not listen to us, then we tend to notice every subtle movement or gesture that suggests their attention is elsewhere. Our expectations are like a lens through which we view all of our experience and filter out those things that contradict our beliefs while magnifying those that confirm what we already thought would happen.

As we begin a new year and celebrate the season of Epiphany, I would like to encourage all of us to reflect on what we are preparing and looking for and how we go about doing that.  May we all expect and prepare ourselves for the very best so that we may continue the love, hope, peace, and joy that were celebrated throughout the Advent season. Let us remain motivated to do our part to bring those to fruition in the new year.

Five Expectation Guidelines

1. Acknowledge your limits. We are all human and have a limited amount of time, energy, and resources to expend. Remember that honoring your limits allows you to take care of you and be the best version of yourself.
2. Be realistic. Don’t fixate on the worst case scenario but also don’t ignore likely obstacles. Consider likely outcomes and challenges so you can properly prepare.
3. Explore potential obstacles and consider how you might navigate them.
4. Be flexible. Just because you prepare for obstacles doesn’t mean they won’t interfere when they arise. Even when we plan appropriately, sometimes things just don’t work out as we intended. In such cases, it is important to adjust and adapt rather than lament that things didn’t go exactly as we hoped for.
5. Communicate openly, especially when expectations are tied to other people. So often, we find ourselves disappointed when others fail to meet our expectations even though they had no idea what our expectation was in the first place. Furthermore, we can find ourselves the source of someone else’s frustration when we fail to communicate our boundaries and limits. Sharing our boundaries with others, including limitations to what we can provide as well as what to expect if our boundaries aren’t honored, protects everyone and preserves relationships as it reduces confusion and lets everyone know what to expect.

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