Superman could leap tall buildings with a single bound, stop a speeding locomotive and rescue Lois Lane from all her misfortunes. At least that’s the way the movies showed it when we got our popcorn and chose the perfect seat. If he didn’t or couldn’t do all that we were expecting, how disappointed would we have been?
Expectation means to anticipate something happening. Once we have an expectation of something, nothing else compares. As children we were taught that if we asked for a certain Christmas present, we would get it. On Christmas day if it turned out that we didn’t get everything on our list, we were inevitably saddened, all because of our expectations. We can be aware that we have an expectation for something by allowing our self to see our heart’s response to the un-expected, something unforeseen that we didn’t anticipate. That’s exactly what I did in regards to my relationship with my father, and ultimately, I was let down. The way my father loved me was unexpected.
When I look back on my heart response about our relationship, I can see I was disappointed with how he loved me because of my unhealthy expectation. That disappointment has affected my whole life. I believe every little girl sees her dad as Superman; that picture was no different for me. Not only do we see them as Superman, but we have this underlying need to be loved a certain way by our fathers.
When I was an adolescent, my unattainable expectation on how my father should love me was formed. I would see other fathers with their daughters and wish my dad and I were like that. Or I would hear songs like “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Butterfly Kisses” that tell a story of some fairytale father, and when my ears would hear, my heart would yearn for that. Needless to say, I was never the kind of little girl that got pulled up on her dad’s lap or told she was the apple of his eye. What I am beginning to see is that just because he didn’t say it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t loved.
Let me give you a mental snapshot of my father because a person’s past always plays a part in who they become. My father is seventy-eight years old and was raised in a very hard era. Times back then weren’t soft and gentle; they were tough and rigid. He picked cotton, and sweated just to help his family eat a meal. He was taught never to show weakness. Boys were tough. Period. He was an ex-golden glove champion who went on to the professional realm of boxing with huge, muscle-filled arms. He coached every sport my three brothers ever played, and he was tougher than any man I could think to compare him to. My mother always told me he held me in his big, strong hands until I was six months old. He was and still is a man that has lived through serving our country, being shot, and losing two of his own sons. Yet all the while he worked multiple jobs for our family to be able to eat and have nice things.
It’s not hard to guess that he wasn’t a soft, gentle man who whispered sweet nothings in my ear constantly. He was incapable of that, because of the life he had lived. I expected that my dad was going to be Superman, and when I tuned in to the movie of my life, he wasn’t. All these years I have been waiting for my dad to fulfill the expectation I placed on him, only to discover the problem with that was that was the problem!
What you expect can ruin what you actually receive.
I used to receive that he didn’t love me very much, and boy, has the devil been happy about that for years. He is such a liar. The Bible says he comes to steal, kill and destroy, and in this area, he did steal a lot of my thoughts. Fortunately, he was incapable of killing or destroying what our heavenly Father had in store for my dad and me. Jesus wants to uncover the lies that have hurt us so He can cover them with His truth. The lie I believed for many years was that my dad didn’t love me very much. That lie was created because he didn’t and couldn’t live up to my expectation of how I should be loved.
Expectations are like a lioness hunting her prey: they quietly sneak up and devour you without you even being aware that they are there. I didn’t know that the feeling of loneliness or sadness I got when I was with my dad was linked to my expectation or the lie I believed, until recently.
You see, just like Superman, every man has his kryptonite. If you think back with me, kryptonite was the one thing that could make Superman lose his power and become weak. My dad’s kryptonite is cancer. The doctors say he has two months to live, but I am still hopeful.
What the devil means to steal, the Lord always redeems, and that is just what has happened for me and my dad. I was shopping at Target the other day and saw some “Superman” boxer shorts hanging on a rack from across the store. I was unusually drawn to them. When I walked up to them, there was only one pair. Just my dad’s size. Coincidence? I think not. Tears began to fill my eyes as I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Your dad will always be Superman to you.” I knew right then that my unhealthy expectation had begun to be healed. My dad was never the problem. The expectation was. No one but Jesus can or will live up to the expectation you place on them.
The starting place of real contentment is to kill all expectations because God has more for us than what we limit our expectation to.
Walking through this cancer has created some sweet times. I wrote my dad a letter telling him all the amazing things about himself, along with giving him the Superman boxer shorts. Funny thing is, on his hospice bed on any given day, you will find him in those boxer shorts with the letter I wrote beside his bed. When he first read the letter, he grabbed my hand and said, “I’ve always loved you, daughter.” It was better than him pulling me on his lap. It was a moment I will never forget, and in that moment I knew I had always been the apple of his eye.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” I was hoping for many years in a picture that made my heart sick, but my dream was fulfilled that day, and, I believe, will become the seed that grows in our family tree of life for generations to come.
The most beautiful thing is that the very character traits my dad has that the devil tried to use for harm are being used for good. I won’t have to look too far to see traces of my dad. In my children, I see my father. In years past, it was the very thing I didn’t really desire, because you want your children to be just like you; that’s our natural instincts. The ironic thing is that my children are just like me because I am just like him.
We are stronger than we knew. We might not leap a tall building in a single bound or stop a moving locomotive, but that strength is helping all of us walk through my Superman’s weakness that will end in his inevitable passing.
It’s hard to let go… I’m in the midst of practicing.
However, I just hold on to that scene in the very first Superman episode. Maybe you remember the encounter where the characters greet each other when Superman swoops down to rescue Lois Lane and he says, “Easy, Miss, I’ve got you.” And then Lois makes the unforgettable statement: “You’ve got me …who’s got you?” Throughout the years and even till the end, my dad has had me. Even now he is wondering how I am doing. The day will soon come when the real Superman, Jesus, will rescue my own earthly Superman from all the pain he’s been going through.
Honestly, I think it’s safe to say that this is the one and only expectation I can have that will come true.