When Lemons are Limes: A Lesson on Expectations

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21 NIV

photo: Raye Wortel

photo: Raye Wortel

When we moved into our new home, I bought a lemon tree for our backyard patio.  I had picked out the best looking tree, bought the perfect pot, and the right kind of soil.


Everything was perfect.  There was nothing left to do but wait for the bounty to arrive.


The first blooms appeared, and small fruits began to form on the branches, and as they grew, I wondered…


Do lemons start out green, and ripen to yellow?


Alright, I know all you native Californians are probably getting a big laugh right about now, but in my defense as a New Yorker, I was a newbie to citrus trees.


Seriously, I kept waiting for them to turn yellow.  One day, I couldn’t take the suspense any longer, and I plucked one off the tree, cut it open, and took a taste.


It was a lime.


There went my expectations; all because one fruit turned out to be another.


Sound familiar?


Expectations are like a little invisible box of hopes and plans we carry around with us everyday, and when they fail or don’t live up, we frantically change or coax them into a result that isn’t too different from our original idea of “perfect”.


It’s a game of compromise.  If expectations aren’t met, we may settle for a lower standard, or we may push the proverbial square peg in the round hole.


I tried the peg in the hole thing when I went and bought another tree.


This time I double checked the labels and made certain I did everything in my power to bring home the perfect lemon tree.


The tree bloomed, and the fruit followed and…


It was another lime tree.


This is when most of us would see failed expectations as our greatest motivator, or our greatest discourager.


But what if they were also our greatest changer?


I have found when my expectations or plans meet resistance or go up in smoke, it usually means there’s some refining and purifying work that needs doing, so I ask myself a few questions:


“What are my true motivations right now?”


“Do I have something to learn first?”


“Have I spent enough time discerning God’s path for me, or have I been too busy paving my own?”


When God calls us to step out in faith (beyond lemon trees, I might add!), and stumbling blocks form or contention mounts, we have to fight lowering our expectations.


God calls us, “further up, and further in”, not down and out.


I want to encourage you to go through the refining process, don’t compromise, or try to change His call to your own thinking.  Let his Power rule.


Matthew Henry once wrote: “How much better is it to be approved of God than to have a vain opinion of ourselves!” So true!


Lord, thank you for your Power, and the lessons we learn from your Creation.  Teach me God, to have courage not to settle for a lower standard, but to submit to your refining fire; to set myself aside for the glory of your calling.  Amen.


When have your expectations really thrown you?  Did the Lord refine you through it?  Leave a comment!

6 Replies

  1. Carrie

    Well, you did it again you stinker! I REALLY needed to hear this today! Dan and I have been going through some troublesome issues lately that were discouraging because things weren’t going along as we/he/I planned. So instead of settling, Dan and I are turning it into encouragement as we know God has a plan. We may not always see the present in the present but, with faith, patience & hope it will become crystal clear.

    1. I’m so glad you found this post meaningful for you! This is such a stressful and exciting time for you and Dan, and you are so wise to seek the counsel of the Lord. May he richly bless your married life, you so deserve it! Love- Stinker

  2. Lori West

    Great message and reminder. I find limes in my hand often and keep myself too busy to look to God for the why. I do feel his refining….daily.

    1. Limes in my hand…I love how you said that Lori!

  3. Devery

    Apparently, God had salsa in mind, rather than lemonade! LOL Good message, coinciding with my study, yesterday, involving “pouting” and the habit, of it, when anything negative, or disappointing happens, and if we don’t let God tend to it, it can become a lifestyle. Hebrews 12:15 describes what can happen…”Falling short of the grace of God because of bitter roots that grow up to cause trouble and defile many”. Beth Moore teaches, in “Anointed, Transformed, and Redeemed”, “that if we don’t deal with our disappointment about God’s sovereign decisions, we’ll default our way into disobedience.” How true, how true! My God bless your speech, today.

    1. Great thoughts, Devery! Thank you for pointing out Hebrews 12:15, they’re are perfect to remember when we feel like pushing back on the refining work of the Lord.

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