Expectation can be based in reality, seasoned with grace, and can produce hope. It can also result from inner dissatisfaction, a longing for reality to be different than what it is. The latter sucks the life out of those who have expectations placed on them, and is common in our day and age, especially within the church. I don’t know how it was years ago, but today it seems that often what life really is (and what people really are) are quite different from what we’d wish they would be (or expect them to be). It has been said that depression results when expectations (of life, of people, or of ourselves) are different from reality. The more separation between what’s expected and what’s real, the more depression is likely. I believe this to be true and it is witnessed in the rich and the poor, in the three year-old and the seventy three year-old, in the successful and in the one “failing”, and in those outside and in those inside the church.
I’ve personally been confronted with this reality in adjusting to this Amazon culture. The people here live with an entirely different set of values, priorities and expectations than I do. What is real here appears the same on the surface (people are people!) but is, in reality, so entirely different. I place a high value on hard work and expect myself and others to apply themselves whole-heartedly to a task and to finish working when the work is done. I expect excellence, punctuality, a person keeping his/her word and speaking the truth, a person caring for things of value, etc. I am task oriented and place high value (and expectations) on work and service. People here, almost without exception lack these same expectations. If I’m not careful, I can call them “wrong” rather than “different” (like I have my wife in our marriage). They desire and expect to be treated with kindness. They consider work only a necessity and do as little as possible, placing more value on the completion of a task than on that task being done well. Punctuality (nothing is done here by appointment) and keeping one’s word (or telling what’s true) has little value. Everything is spoken of in generalities and errors in specifics are of minimal importance. Outside of peace in relationship, and friendship, little is valued and little is expected. Interruption is expected and is seen as a blessing (someone is coming to see me!) where to me if something isn’t scheduled, it is an annoyance and takes me away from what I am doing (and what is important at the moment).
The key is that here the people are relationship oriented and relationship always takes priority over task. Peace is more important than excellence. Having time for the unexpected visit is of higher priority than accomplishment. How could they know how to value a high cost item if they’ve never owned one? I remember a missionary friend in Haiti trying to describe what a well swept floor was to a woman working for her who had always lived with dirt floors. Who is better off? Those who are content, with few expectations, or those driving for more, expecting much? Both cultures have strengths and weaknesses in what they expect from life, from themselves, and from others. How often are my values (and expectations) challenged here!
The adjustment to a different culture is largely an adjustment in expectations. When I am “well-adjusted”, my American expectations are set aside to accommodate my present reality. When I am frustrated and annoyed (and depressed), it is often because my expectations are not realistic for this culture. Dealing with expectations that are not based on the reality of normal (and extremely flawed) human nature can lead to an intolerable existence, both for the one with the expectations and for the one on whom the expectations are placed. Inappropriate expectations (for yourself, another person, your circumstances, God) will be felt by your inner man and will lead to either depression, a futile drive to change reality (or a person/spouse), or an adjustment in what you expect. The latter is the only healthy response.
Much of our inner frustration with people can be traced to unrealistic expectations. This is one of the principal challenges in full-time ministry, in raising children, and in marriage. It is one of the major challenges in any relationship that involves people! Expectation is one of many things that identifies me as quite screwed up. As I examine various areas of my life (myself, others, my family, my spouse, my circumstances, my friends, this culture, God) I can see that I periodically have unrealistic expectations in every area! And every one of these unrealistic expectations causes me inner conflict and/or conflict with a person (or God). It is awful, as well, to live under another’s unrealistic expectations. To live with a controlling person (one who expects you to be as they wish) is to live in bondage, without an identity. Also, today we have so many expectations of God that are outside of His revealed character that many "Christians" are worshipping a god of our own making and giving Him Bible names.
How do I respond? I love the phrase, “as you are”. In the kingdom of God, you are free to come as you are, free to be completely you (blemishes, mistakes, scars, and faults included). There are no prerequisites to being loved by the God that made us. Jesus emphasized that He especially loved those broken, soiled, wounded and mistake-ridden (He demonstrated more love for those who nailed Him to the cross than I do for my friends). We are loved as we are. We can do the same. We can remove expectations and give people the freedom to be whoever they want to be (even if they reject us or wound us) and assure them that we will still love them, as they are. We can worship God, as He is, and not ask Him to be something in particular for us.
Will you join me today in looking at our expectations of people, life, and God and see if, as we love them, we are granting them freedom to be “whatever” or are we placing them in the bondage of our expectations? Let’s evaluate especially our relationship with our spouse, with our kids, with our parents, with our boss, with our co-workers, with our friends… If we cannot freely love people without placing expectations on them (like our Father does us), can we then say that we love God?
Seek to free rather than to control.
To give in to a controlling person is to live without an identity.
To live with a domineering and overbearing person is to live as a slave.
When you pray, use spoken words. Don’t “feel” pray.
The easiest and most “exciting” part of any race, endeavor or relationship (including that with Jesus) is the first.
It is vision that creates the motivation to persevere. What is your current life vision?
When you know the embrace and the affection of God, you will be free.
In the Kingdom, both the costs and the benefits are great. The more you give of yourself, the more others benefit. The more you give of yourself now, the more you benefit eternally. The more you give in the "seen" world, the more you benefit in the "unseen"…
The typical "Christian" is like the Pharisees of old, clean on the outside and empty and dead on the inside. Resist the temptation to wear any type of mask and seek Him, as you are.
There’s often much difference between good ideas and God’s ideas, between good plans and God’s plans, between good works and God’s works. Think and listen!
Planted seeds will not bear fruit in a day, a week, a month…
Your life will never remain the same.
One who can’t forgive doesn’t fully appreciate how much he’s been forgiven.
Fasting takes you to a place of brokenness and it is usually in a broken state that our hearts are more able to receive.
Nothing’s shape or character can be transformed without the current shape or character first being broken.
Religion says, "God will love you if…" Jesus says, "I love you, period. Nothing that you do will ever change my affection for you."
We are our own god on the level of the ancient pagans when we say, "I will follow God if…" or “I can’t believe in a god that…”