Something about the upside

Something about the upside

Throwaway comments over the last fortnight have made me realise all over again: I tend to expect and anticipate the upside and manage the downside.

I expect that every person who calls The Big Table ‘home’ will come together every week. I’m surprised if they don’t.

I expect everyone on my ‘imaginary list’ to turn up at Tuesday intervals and bust out 3 x 3km. And I’m surprised when they don’t.

I think it likely I will run 2:39 for a marathon in my late forties and am a little flummoxed when it doesn’t quite come together.

I anticipate that thousands will read something that I write and (and am increasingly less) surprised when they don’t.

I imagine that the Fremantle Dockers will win every game of football that they play – even when trailing by over ten goals heading into the last quarter. Many would label this as something far different to expectancy.

As I walked the dog home from school drop off this morning, I found myself contemplating the alternative.

I don’t tend to pack umbrellas or raincoats. I guess you’d call me a ‘glass half full’ person, which has always struck me as the preferable of the two alternatives. It’s not hubris or ego – I’m unable to directly impact many of those things.

But I’ve realised that as long as you don’t mind getting wet, the rain doesn’t really matter.

I wouldn’t say I’m hyper-optimistic and saccharine in my view of the world. I’m up for a little melancholy (without the infinite sadness), and I think I have a realistic take on what I see—the magnificent and the downright deplorable. But I have come to realise that by thinking ‘upside’, I get to revel in the expectation of ‘what might be’. I get to visualise what it will feel like, look like, taste like and sound like if and when it does happen. Ok, maybe not that time, but next.

Seeing the upside helps me furnish a vision for what might be, even if it isn’t right now. It makes it a possibility that I can run towards with increasing familiarity.

The opposite to expecting the best (which, it turns out, is what love always does), is to expect the worst. Or expect very little. I can’t imagine this would ever propel anyone towards anything but inactivity and resignation. Slow exhales of resignation breathed out on all who surround.

The challenge for anyone who thinks ‘upside’ will be managing disappointment because nothing’s surer, it will come. And low expectations are no insurance against it.

Does disappointment crush us? Surprise us? Propel us? Strengthen us? Or simply become a brief pause for thought on the road on which we continue to travel.

My experience is that it does all those and more but, if I bring an eternal perspective to those mini-disappointments, those experiences become propelling. Not because I get to shrug my shoulders and think ‘ahhh, it never really mattered anyway’, but because while it did matter and still does matter, there’s also a bigger story being written. It ends up becoming a sad (but important) little sentence in a much bigger story.

I recently heard someone say that ‘God doesn’t answer 100% of the prayers that we don’t pray’. I tried to argue that one in my head for a while but I couldn’t.

When our expectations and anticipation are of a coming kingdom that is antithetical to the one that prevails, there’s a constant cause for disappointment.

“God’s Kingdom doesn’t look like this, I’m sure of it, I’ve read it, Jesus spoke it…”

Yet every time we enact the values of God’s Kingdom, regardless of how opposed they are to the world’s, we usher a ‘Kingdom coming’ to the world in which we live. A kingdom that is upside down to what prevails, and 100% upside.

There is no shortage of motivational one-liners to tie thoughts like this in a bow, but none come to mind. Only this: Don’t play for the downside, play for the upside. It changes how you play.

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