Today was a really rough day. Seems like a lot of life situations all came together and broke me not once, but multiple times throughout the day. I tend to store up stress, anxiety, concern, hurt, and pain all together until I just can’t hold any more… and then it all comes pouring out, accompanied by tears, as a few not-so-fortunate individuals found this evening. It’s not that I don’t pray about things – most days this summer I’ve felt almost like I pray without ceasing about some situation or another – I think I’m finding instead that it’s my perspective that predisposes me to this type of response.
Tonight’s Gathering service was like finding water after a long time in the desert. And I know that sounds dramatic, and very well might be, but it definitely helped to put today, and in fact, my entire summer into perspective.
John talked about expectations and how our expectations affect the outcomes of our lives. His message was mostly geared toward those who underestimate God and His love and what kind of expectations we should really have when it comes to our relationship with Him. And that aspect of it was great, but it opened up my eyes to a lot of the real sources of the discomfort, pain, and even anger that I’ve encountered and walked through over the past several months.
The real source is me. It’s all about my expectations. The expectations I place on other individuals and their ability to perform and to love me well, the expectations I place on myself to always do what should be done and in the manner it should be done in (to achieve perfection or as near to it as is humanly possible), and the expectations I’ve placed on God – asking and expecting Him to fit into the box I’ve created for Him without even knowing I’ve done so.
expectations placed on others
Somewhere in the midst of all the craziness I’ve forgotten an important lesson that God began teaching me last fall regarding expectations and loving people. The two don’t go together. God’s showing me again what it means to love completely – as He loves. And that means loving with no expectations, no demands, no agenda, etc. I am to love people for who they are and for what they will be, not for who I expect them to be.
This was my conclusion last fall: if I have any agenda, any requirements, or any expectations, I merely barter my affection. For my love to be complete, I have to love without conditions.
This is my conclusion this fall/end of summer: there’s also a real difference between expectations and anticipation. And it’s okay to be disappointed when things fall through, when people let me down, and when situations beyond anyone’s control just simply don’t happen as planned. And I shouldn’t be upset with myself for anticipating. Anticipation, after all, is a very nice thing when its dream is fulfilled.
expectations placed on myself
I’m a perfectionist extraordinaire. I absolutely can’t stand it when I don’t perform to the best of my ability, or when I make stupid mistakes, or find that my laziness or lack of wisdom has created a large problem that I must face.
Days like today are actually such a blessing, because I am forced to remember how truly human I am and that there’s absolutely nothing in my life that I can handle on my own – I am forever going to need Christ and His mercy, love, and grace. The truth is that I’m not really capable of living up to anyone’s expectations – even my own – without a solid relationship with Christ and the companionship and help of the Holy Spirit. His wisdom is absolutely essential to my life and I need to be so much more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
expectations placed on God
This one’s a bit more difficult and spans my entire lifetime. John (McGowan, not the apostle) is completely correct in his statement that the expectations we place on God really do determine what our experience with Him is like. And I think that if our perception of Him is distorted that our expectations will be as well. The difference between how we should see God and how we should see people is that we absolutely must see them for what they are. God is God… He is I AM and can be no other. All throughout His Word, He invites our expectations:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Eph. 3:20-21
I think the difficulty here lies in determining which expectations are Biblically-sound and which are the result of misunderstandings of Scripture, false teaching, and our desire that God conform to our image of Him, rather than allowing ourselves to be molded and shaped into the likeness of Christ. And that is a much longer post for a later date…
all of that to say that I need to change. I need to be more like Christ. I need to stop expecting people to behave in certain ways and simply appreciate them; I need to take a step back from all of the things I’m doing and with some sort of objectivity determine if the expectations I’ve placed on myself are realistic, and even more importantly, evaluate their worth in the kingdom of heaven… and lastly, I need to continue to take a closer look at Scripture and continue to deeply pursue the truth of who God is and what that means in terms of what I expect Him to do in my life.