“I really didn’t ask for this role. It was not among my expectations. Really, many of my classmates could do the interpretation better than me," my Taiwanese friend, Emma, began.
"But, for some reason, God put me in that place, interpreting for the president of our country!" she revealed. "It was ruthlessly competitive and, eventually, someone knocked me out. A younger, prettier girl than I. I almost lost my faith. But now, I have new hope…and God has restored me!”
Failing in Expectations
Emma hailed from a strict Buddhist background and was quite focused in her pursuit of success. Along the way, however, she met up with disappointment as she found herself struggling in an area where she had always excelled.
Competition in her program was cut throat, and the A’s she had always managed to score in her undergrad years increasingly became more elusive. Her confidence waned. Her hope of ever being the success her parents had expected of her seemed to dissolve.
As a friendship with another classmate grew, Emma discovered some opportunities outside of her program that gave her hope. Jenny, a Christian, brought Emma to a fellowship meeting for international students.
There, Emma learned about Jesus and, while first reluctant, gradually came to understand what He meant for her life. Encouraged by the leader and some other Christians, Emma also began poring through the Bible daily.
There was so much she didn’t know! But her voracious hunger kept her reading and reading. She approached the Bible with the same tenacity she had approached everything in her life: read it, study it, learn it, memorize it. She had high expectations here, too. Within a few months, she had read the entire Bible and was beginning on a second round.
It became clear to the leader of the fellowship that God was working hard on Emma’s heart. One day he asked her openly, “Emma, since you’ve learned so much, do you want to follow Jesus now?” While the question took her by surprise, her answer surprised her even more: “Yes!”
It surprised her because she knew there would be challenges with her family. That is what concerned her the most. She knew they held expectations for her to be a certain way. However, shortly after, she decided to get baptized. Still, she continued to worry what her parents would say about all this.
It wouldn’t be long before she’d find out. Returning back to Taiwan after finishing two degrees, her parents were very disappointed when she eventually told them her decision to become a Christian. As socially prominent people, they were worried about what others would say. They told her she failed in their expectations of her. They tried to make her renounce her new Christian faith. She told them she loved them very much, and she believed that being a Christian would help her to love them more.
Then, when she passed the national test for interpreters for her country, Emma shared the news with her parents. Though happy for her, they remained distant because of her choices. So she still struggled with feelings of inadequacy and unmet expectations. On top of this, there seemed to be so many more who possessed greater linguistic skilled than her.
Interpreter for the President
But she continued to exceed her expectations for herself, advancing through interviews for top positions. Meanwhile, referrals for several jobs from “upperclassmen” kept coming her way, enabling her to hone her skills. Finally she learned that, at age 27, she now had the opportunity to do a trial interpretation for the President of her nation!
No question, that day was one of the most nerve-wracking days of Emma’s life! She thought about Jenny and her calm demeanor. It helped. When actually on the spot, Emma shined! She could do this! No question, she had the training, she had the vocabulary. She was designed for this moment! And they wanted her!
And the next year, following a major disaster in her country, the President (not a Christian himself) even asked Emma to write a prayer for the nation he ended up delivering on national TV. Emma had gained the respect as a Christian believer in a mostly Buddhist/Taoist nation to write a prayer for the President! Expectations met! Even Emma's parents couldn't deny the favor she had received.
Many years of serving in the high-level role of interpreter for the President of her country made the attack from a younger fellow interpreter all the more brutal. This woman told Emma directly, “I will have your job,” and she went after it with a vengeance.
As Emma, now a married mother of two young girls, shared, “These were very dark years for me. I felt like I lost almost all I had worked for. At the time, I couldn’t see the gifts right before me – a faithful husband, two lively young girls. I became depressed, discouraged.”
But God broke into Emma’s darkest hours. Emma’s father faced a cancer diagnosis. This news opened up more spiritual dialogue among family members. There was a huge restoration in their relationship and the overall mood of the family. It drew them close in new ways, and one of Emma’s brothers decided to become a follower of Jesus as well.
Although Emma lost the top job, she became the official interpreter for the Speaker of the House, a position she retained for a long time. The job opened up more travel opportunities and, although that can be logistically challenging for their family, Emma’s husband, a small-business owner, as well as her mother and brother, are all great supporters of her. They help her to serve well in a position she enjoys even more, one with potentially even greater impact.
Have you experienced times when life doesn’t meet expectations? Have you seen God work despite the circumstances?