Spoiler-averse types beware! If you haven't seen the film, do not read on. Don't do it. Ok, fine. Make my day. Read it.

One of our worst enemies is the picture in our head of how life is supposed to be. In that mental picture, happiness is the absence of disappointments, mistakes, and failures. Unfortunately, that equation leads only to hopelessness and frustration. When we struggle to cope with the imperfect nature of our lives, we have two options: we can continue measuring our lives against the picture in our head or we can trek beyond that mental image.

When your days don't turn out quite the way you want them to be, what do you do? Do you fixate on your expectations? Or do you journey to liberation?

That's the conundrum of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek Beyond. A little under three years into their five year mission, the rigors of starship Enterprise's extended stay in outer space has stretched the ship's mechanical capacities. The hardships of interstellar exploration and the tediousness of day in and day out in the final frontier has taken a toll on the crew. Captain Kirk is disappointed and frustrated with his mission, and he's thinking about a job change. He feels burdened by daily routine and unrealistic expectations. Dancing on the edge of the universe and exhausted of measuring himself against his father, Kirk feels pushed to his limits.

sr-blog-8.3.16-photo-courtesy-the-new-yorker.jpgKirk's desolation reaches a new high during a rescue mission. As the Enterprise travels on the far side of a nebula, it is suddenly attacked by a massive cluster of ships – a swarm of metallic killer "bees". The Enterprise tries to fight back, but it is overcome by the swirling ships ramming repeatedly into the starship. One by one, the metallic "bees" inflict serious damage to the Enterprise. Unable to cope with the repeated blows, the starship is destroyed.

At times, disappointments, failures, and unfulfilled expectations accumulate. A phone that didn't charge properly overnight. Missed opportunities. Hair that won't cooperate. Comparing ourselves to others. Children who don't eat their breakfast (and prefer to decorate the kitchen with it). Friends who don't "like" our pictures. Spouses who leave nearly-empty milk cartons in the fridge. Co-workers who belong in fifth grade.

It seems like life is one darn thing after another. And another. And another. Expectations are seldom fulfilled. Burdens pile high and anxiety rises. Work becomes an affliction. School turns into a drag. The marriage suffers. Kids don't want to talk. Parents never seem to stop talking.

Our lives are not as picture-perfect as we'd like them to be. When we can't cope, we forget who we are, and what we are all about. And we suffer. In those moments, we need to recoup and regroup.  The times when we struggle to cope with disappointments and unfulfilled expectations are invitations to pause, breathe deeply, and be renewed by hope. It's time to swerve away from the busyness of being busy, to be reminded that we live on hope, and not on the fulfillment of our expectations.

The need to pause and regroup is evident in the film. After the crew evacuated the Enterprise and crash-landed their pods in a rugged and unwelcoming planet, they used that moment of crisis as an opportunity to recoup and regroup. It is only when we learn to endure and overcome the adversities and disappointments of life, that we begin to see that everything is grace – that life isn't just one darn thing after another.

Life is a gift. A series of gifts actually. And these gifts come to us when we least expect them and in ways we never expected. If we are too fixated on our expectations, we can't make room for the gifts that God bestows on us. And the Giver loves to shower us with gifts. Some of them soothe us and others break us open. Gifts can draw us inward or make us want to reach out to others. Each gift has a purpose we have to discover. God does not give us what we expect. God gives us what we need. Sometimes he gives us fulfillment. At times he gives us setbacks. And we need both. That clashes with our picture-perfect expectations, but that's life.

One of our worst enemies is the picture in our head of how life is supposed to be. The best to cope with that mental image is the renewed hope that helps us to journey beyond the expected. Trekking to liberation means learning that disappointments, failures, and unfulfilled expectations are part of life. That is the journey to fulfillment. Seeking joy in messy kitchens. Serving the members of our dysfunctional families. Loving flawed friends, co-workers, and strangers. Pursuing beauty in places that are not picture-perfect. Finding God in the unexpected.

What will you do when your days are less than picture-perfect? Will you become attached to your expectations? Or will you trek to freedom?