Around this time last fall, Chris and I were walking along a silent sidewalk in search of number 2937. Two-nine-three-seven... one foot in front of the other, not quite sure where 2937 would lead us, yet unmistakably certain that we thought we knew what we'd find there. We approached a set of stairs with brochures leading the way towards a giant set of glass doors. One step inside, and we veered toward the left; it looked comfortable there. There, at a table, we inscribed our names on a piece of paper, surrounded by small figurines and informational pamphlets. We shuffled a few into our arms, and waited in the awkwardness.
A man approached us, a man of short stature in an ashy orange and deep red robe with one shoulder uncovered. He welcomed us with a smile on his face, a smile that suggested a hint of something that was not right. He asked us our names, and listened tentatively until his eyes couldn't stand it anymore--He peered down at our feet and it became painfully obvious: we were wearing shoes in his sacred place of worship.
To be honest, I had many expectations about what I would encounter at a Buddhist meditation. Chris had to attend a meditation for one of his undergrad classes, so I thought it'd be "fun" to tag along. Besides, who would send their boyfriend into the barefoot unknown alone?
In the past, I never would have done something like this. Why? Because my mind was filled with presumptions that going into certain people's worlds was simply unforgivable; Like stepping into the world of a Buddhist monk would taint my heart a certain shade of wrong. Then, I'd lose my grip on right; I'd forget who God is. Somewhere along the way, someone told me I'd fall into a slippery slope of confusion, and once I did, I might never be able to find my way back again.
But, you see, I learned a lot of things by going to a Buddhist meditation; it was nothing like I had expected. I had expected a man sitting on the floor, legs crossed, holier-than-thou, singing a song through the humming of his throat, eyes closed, with very few words. I had expected silence and a whole lot of awkwardness; many robes, and that Chris and I, in our not-so-fit-for-Buddhist-worship apparel, would stick out like a sore thumb.
We didn't stick out, and to my surprise, the monk was young, about our age, with a personality. I know, right? He talked about life, and the struggles people go through, and then, he told us that he goes to work every week. Let's be honest, that's the last place I pictured a Buddhist monk going. No temple? No humming? No pointing the finger that the new kids stepped on your "mystic" carpet with the soles of our shoes?
And then it hit me -- that the way I had mustered up various "expectations" about a Buddhist meditation was probably the way that a lot of people had micromanaged their thoughts of church, God, grace, Jesus, pastors, go crazy and fill in the blank. We all have expectations about how certain people might act towards us; how we are going to be treated in certain circles. We might think we have no business being in the midst of "goodness" (people don't know how "bad" we really are, and if they did, they'd never accept us!); that a preacher is too holy and could never understand the struggles of the not-so-blessed, and, I hate to say it, but that Christians might judge us. Who, Christians? Judge?
Let's face it -- we all have expectations that control what we do. Too often, our fears bind us in a cage that keeps us from getting to know people in their worlds and learning to loving them there. Letting go of expectations does not mean that we embrace all ideas as truth; we stand firm as ever, but we do it by choosing to see the world with a heart that chooses not to judge, not to live in a prison, and not to fear that which is different. And sometimes, just sometimes, it means sitting on the floor of someone else's world, legs-crossed, singing a song through the humming of our throats, eyes closed, praying like we've never prayed before that the truth of God's love--God's unconditional, stereotype-free love, would overwhelm us all.
What "expectations" do you have surrounding the church, God, Jesus, etc?
What fears do you have about things that are different than your norm?
Challenge yourself. What will you do about them?