Extravagant Expectations

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 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."
Romans 15:4 NIV

It was my thirty-four-year-old daughter, Emily.  She was six then.  She went on a class trip to the local touch-it/feel-it/now-I-know-it children’s museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  There was a photographer from the local paper and she happened to think Emily looked cute with a construction helmet on while she was pretending to be excavating something important.  

The next afternoon I see Emily’s black and white photo on the front page of the paper looking out at me through the plastic window of the locked newspaper stand.  I get change for a dollar, slip four quarters in the slot and take out four papers to prove my little girl had hit the big time. Of course, if you’re under twenty-five, you may not remember such newspaper stands. The price of one newspaper would open up the stand to the scores of newspapers piled in the stand. Four quarters allowed me four newspapers with my daughter’s picture on the cover.  

Of course, I go home first and tell the cover girl to get ready for the television interview.  She looks at the picture, appears mildly excited, and then says she’s disappointed it wasn’t in color.

Again, she’s disappointed it wasn’t in color.  

The response of that wonderfully well rounded, brilliant little girl--who never asked for too much candy or never got wet when it rained--reminds me of my response to much of life.  What’s worse, I’m not six years old.

 God grants my life a picture of front-page abundance, especially from the perspective of the amputee in Bosnia or the desperate soul in Somalia, and I wonder why the picture isn’t in color.  It’s the old give us this day our chocolate éclair routine—the common distortion of David’s 23rd Psalm plea about daily bread. He has promised his eternal provision and I’m wondering why my last investment didn’t immediately turn into an extravagantly-iced bonanza!

But I am a child of the narcissistic culture that is driven by the extravagant expectation of fame and glory.  It’s in the air I breathe and the water I drink.  My daily bread is not enough, I need enough bread to fill the storehouse, and after that more storehouses.  I demand bread with exquisite jam.  I’m not content to merely work with my hands; in my secret heart of hearts I must direct multitudes or make millions.  The love and affirmation of my family and friends are not enough, I covet the love and affirmation of the masses.  And finally, most shamefully--to be chosen by God is not enough, I must be chosen by Spielberg or Mamet or Tina Fey or other “stars” of our culture’s pantheon.

And God’s promises are too often dwarfed in importance by the promises of a new play (I’m a playwright), or the positive thunder of a new role (I’m an old actor, twenty-five years past any typical leading man roles), or the promise of any lottery drawing that will re-designate my stature.

Give me this day my chocolate éclair.

Paul D. Patton, Ph.D., is a professor of communication and theater at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. He has graduate degrees in Guidance and Counseling, Religious Education, and Script and Screenwriting, and a doctorate in Communication with an emphasis in theater arts. He has been married to his wife Beth for over forty years and has three daughters (all actresses)—Jessica, Emily, and Grace, three sons-in-law, David, Joe, and Eric, and four grandsons, Caleb Rock, Logan Justice, Micah Blaze, and Miles Dean.