Expectations mercilessly fly at us from so many angles and directions. They can come from work, our family, our friends, and most often, from ourselves. Sometimes these expectations are verbalized. Other times they are simply hinted or even conjured up as a figment of our imagination. Regardless if they are true or make believe, we carry around a huge amount of pressure with us each day as we struggle to meet these expectations. We don’t want to let anyone down, especially ourselves.
The Bible study group I’m just finished up a lesson on expectations and it was quite the gut-punch for me. It really opened my eyes to the different expectations I havre in my life and how they affect me and my actions. It’s hard to accept the fact that no matter how hard we try, we will disappoint people; we will let people down.
After completing that lesson, I realized I have some highly unrealistic expectations for myself and my family. I expect that I can work full time, be a good mom, and be loving wife … seamlessly. I should be successful in my career, have well mannered children, and a happy marriage. I should have a clean house and enough spare time to read for pleasure. I want to be able to keep the house picked up, keep on top of the never ending laundry, and get a good healthy meal on the table for dinner (perfectly warmed by the time we actually sit down). I should be able to do it all, and do it well, always. Right?
The reality? My kids make an absolute mess in the living room every single day. A lot of times making it so that you would wonder if there is even a floor amidst the copious amount of toys. I have at least three loads of (clean) laundry sitting in the clothes basket on top of the dryer that have been waiting to be folded for days. And most nights, by the time the table gets set, hands get washed, and we all finally sit down to eat… one child has thrown half of her dinner on the floor, someone is complaining about carrots in their food, and the once warm meal is now cold…and my patience has dwindled down to nothing.
Can you relate?
What I have learned through our Bible study is that when expectations aren’t met, when things aren’t going as planned, I get frustrated, irritated, and unpleasant. I become Mom-Zilla. I snap at those I love the most and then when I realize how awful I’ve acted, feel like the worst person on the planet. So, what can I do about it? I am not a slave to my emotions; I have a choice on how I want to live and who I will serve.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15.
The funny thing….God doesn’t expect perfection. He knows we are human and that we will fail. What He does want us to do is pursue holiness by how we love one another and how we love Him.
While I have a LONG way to go, I’ve been able to figure out certain actions that trigger my frustrations and have been able to attach them to an unmet expectation. This allows me to slow down, figure out if this is a realistic or unrealistic expectation and then ask myself, “Who is going to be more affected (me or others) if this expectation is not met?” Or “Will Christ be upset with me if this expectation is not met?”
Last week, I took my day off from work (I still had the two youngest, so really, just a different kind of work) and had zero expectations of myself or the girls. I didn’t plan anything, I didn’t have a “to-do” list in my mind of things to check off as the day went on. I just let our day happen and I’ve got to say, it was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had with both girls in a really long time.
We played at the library, relaxed around the house, read books and I genuinely enjoyed every minute. Actually, I take that back. There was one point I didn’t enjoy…when the one-year-old’s diaper exploded all over. You know, the kind that goes ALL the way up the back, on the clothes, even the SOCKS, and of course onto the carpet. I even realized about 20 minutes after the clean up, that there were still remnants of the poo on my leggings. Gross. Yeah, that wasn’t enjoyable. But, the rest of the day was. Without expectations holding me hostage, I was free to enjoy whatever the day brought.
And while I soaked in the precious moments with my girls, I was also able to get the dishwasher unloaded, kitchen cleaned up, and a load of laundry done. The difference was my attitude in doing so. Because I hadn’t set certain unrealistic expectations for myself or them, I wasn’t franticly trying to check things off as the hours ticked by, attempting to get everything on my “to-do” list squeezed in, in a few hours. I was free to get done what I could and the enjoy the rest of the unplanned that day.
I realize that when moments get overwhelming, I need an extra shot of patience and gentleness. When I’m spending too much time focusing on what I have to do vs. what I want to do, I need to let God’s grace pour in.
”My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
What are some of the unrealistic expectations in your life that weigh you down? Are you willing to surrender them and put your trust in God’s love? Spend some time with Jesus today, asking him to help you slow down this week and refocus. How is He wanting to bless you this week, and will you be open to receiving it?
”Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” Matthew 6:33.