When Intentionality Disappoints
A call to reexamine our expectations of friendships.
By Nadya Ivanova
The house had been cleaned, the lemon squares had been baked, and soon, my roommate and I would be hosting our biweekly ladies Bible study. Two hours before we were supposed to start, though, the messages started coming in. “Sorry, I can’t make it tonight!”, “I’ll miss you ladies, but something came up.”
In a matter of minutes, we’d gone from a group of ten to a group of two. Our first reaction was frustration. We’d striven to be intentional with these women. We’d made reaching out to them a priority, but they rarely initiated coffee dates or nights out with us. And now this. We wanted to truly “do life” together, but it didn’t seem important to them. What had happened to “do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing?” (Heb. 10:25)
Looking back, I think our understanding of intentionality needed to be broadened. My roommate and I are both driven, Type A women. We are used to putting in hard work and seeing the results. But developing friendships is not a scientific equation, a matter of “intentionality in, friendship out”. No, it’s much more mysterious and beautiful than that.
Susie Larson makes the important distinction between expectation and expectancy. She quotes a mentor who told her, “There’s a big difference between expectation and expectancy. Expectation is premeditated disappointment, whereas expectancy involves faith.” (Dealing with Disappointment*, myfaithradio.com)
My roommate and I had held tight to our expectations for how our friendships with these women would play out, and when our evening turned out differently than we’d expected, we were disappointed. The heart issue beneath expectation, I believe, is a lack of trust that God is active in our lives and that he can move in ways we don’t understand. And more specifically, in our situation, that he would bring friendships into our lives defined by mutuality.
As I reflect on my dearest friendships, it’s clear that God orchestrated them; they were not a result of my own striving. My freshman year of college, I was desperate for friends. One evening, I tagged along with some girls to an event, hoping I might finally connect with some kindred spirits. Instead, they forgot I was even there and went on without me. But walking alone in the rain, I crossed paths with a girl I’d met briefly during orientation. This “chance” meeting was the beginning of one of my closest friendships. We roomed together the remainder of college, have supported each other throughout our twenties, and now, ten years later, she was the very roommate with whom I was complaining about our Bible study.
Intentionality is important, but it’s just as important to trust God with the results. When I have a strong desire, it’s hard to relinquish control, but when I do, I experience peace and freedom. And as he’s shown me, I can trust that he will work in my relationships in ways that are perhaps unexpected, but more beautiful than I could have imagined.
About the writer: Nadya Ivanova is a writer from Upstate New York. She has a passion for encouraging women to put their trust in God when life turns out differently than expected.
*Citation: “Dealing with Disappointment,” Susie Larson, https://myfaithradio.com/2014/dealing-disappointment/