Wow … if the above statement doesn’t sum me up in one phrase, I don’t know what does!!? From how I’d be a wonderful, patient mother as well as a joyful, efficient working woman who was also a loving wife to how this transition from Missouri to Arkansas, from ministry back to the public sector would go, NOTHING … and I do mean NOT ONE THING has gone as I have imagined it. That doesn’t mean things have gone horribly bad, things just haven’t really come about as I imagined they would. Or shall I say as they SHOULD (in my opinion!). Yet, God always knew best. 🙂
God’s ways are not my ways; God’s ways are better. Ironically, that has been something I have quoted since college. Some day I’ll fully realize it BEFORE I start making unrealistic expectations again.
This is how my expectations work: I had looked forward to my husband coming home this weekend so much. “Saturday,” he said, “will be a cleaning day.” Yes, I cleaned today: the flower beds, the garage, and an accident or two of Miriam’s in our continuing saga of potty-training, and the husband watched baseball and is now asleep. Not that he isn’t a good guy (he did bring me coffee and a biscuit for breakfast this morning … and did some grocery shopping for me!), nor did he want to let me down, but I really wish he hadn’t given me hope that we’d have a cleaning day. I wish he’d been realistic and said, “Look, I work 10 hour shifts five days in a row right now … I’m tired. I’ll help you clean after I rest up.” Did I KNOW he works 10 hour shifts, 5 days in a row? Of course, I know. Did I KNOW he’d probably be tired. Yep. And sometimes I think if I had a true servant’s attitude and was a better wife, I’d not even begin to expect my tired breadwinner to help me out on his first day off and home.
I am smart enough to know these things … and yet, I hold on to hope that things will happen the way I want them to. But that is always my first mistake: I want things to happen the way I want them to!
Another example is my failed yard sale 2 weeks ago: maybe 10 or 12 cars came by. Sales were mediocre at best … but I had visions of having NOTHING left – a fast “everything must go” burst at the end of the day with customers clamoring over what they wanted at rock bottom prices. But, I was lucky to even see one customer per hour, let alone have a rush on my well-loved, probably overly esteemed offerings. Today’s ill-timed, Memorial Day weekend yard sale was yet another bust. My hoards of customers were probably at the Lake in their boats and cooking hot dogs. Unmet expectations yet again.
When will I learn? Well, at this ripe old age of forty-something, I’m beginning to think never. I expect a lot out of people, out of my efforts, and most of all, from myself. Each of these entities has the potential to let me down … But does that mean I have to turn into a cynic? Does it mean I never hope??
No, I think it means that I need to quit relying so much on ME and my expectations … and find my strength and hope in the Lord. I went through a phase in my working days when I was so burned out, I realized I was doing everything in my own strength and through dependence on myself, the only one I seemingly could rely on and yet who let me down every time too. It was a pretty sad cycle of disappointment and overworking. It took some time to reflect during an overnight stay in a hospital room, hooked up to a bag of blood that was transfusing my body after severe anemia yet again, when I finally spoke to God about my issues. WHAT was I doing so wrong? I was TRYING, trying HARD … but things weren’t working out, I was tired, I was disappointed, and I was – quite frankly – angry.
The thought that came to me almost immediately was that I was not depending on God’s strength … and that I was relying far too much on my own expectations, which I was unable to fulfill. After long conversations with my husband, I came to realize NO ONE ELSE was expecting that much of me, let alone God. And that is when I reduced my hours at work, reduced my responsibilities, and stopped trying to meet my own expectations. I let my introverted tendencies take over and stepped back into the quiet world where I thrive and feel at home. And I let God heal my wounded spirit. This process needs to happen again; I need to find His strength again!
The Psalms speak much about God as strong: a tower, a fortress, a shield … He is the Source, the only source of meeting expectations. Another person who spoke much of God’s strength was the Apostle Paul, one of the most godly men in Scripture! His success in ministry, no doubt, came from his total reliance on God and viewing himself as a wretch and a worm! I can relate to feeling like a wretch and a worm pretty well…
But Paul was also the one who admonished us (in Romans and other places) to NOT be discouraged, to not dismay, and to just run the race of life at a steady pace, following God’s guiding Hand and trusting in Him for grace, peace, and strength. I want to learn to do that better … I don’t have high expectations that I will do it well or soon or consistently … but I have the hope that I will live in the balance between expectations and total reliance in God’s strength.