Ouch. Ouch because although I didn’t write those words (they came from the book One Thousand Gifts), they pretty well encapsulate me.
This idea of expecting perfect things from a perfect God has been with me the past few days. Does it really seem so wrong? Doesn’t a good God offer good gifts?
I could preach all day about how we live in a broken world. I could teach Bible studies that firmly announce that God knows better than we do and that means we’ll find disappointment and fear. I could even write dozens of blog posts that state we should expect hurt and pain and distress because we live in a sinful, sucky place. Actually I have.
And yet despite all this head knowledge, while I would never state it aloud–could hardly even whisper it–I continue day in and day out with a list of expectations that I have for my loving, good God. Expectations that I actually genuinely “consider to be rightly mine.” Expectations of being content always, of finding the joy of the Lord in everything, of building only nourishing relationships–so long as I pursue them in a godly manner. In fact, I would argue, I pretty much expect only the best when I’m genuinely pursuing God.
Subconsciously, anyway… which is what gives the expectations their power.
When I speak them aloud, I recognize how misplaced they are. I realize they’re not realistic. I’ve done this in so many past posts. This is why I keep blogging. It helps me to set aside what I should not believe and accept that which I should.
But most of the time I don’t realize I have these expectations… usually expectations go unnoticed. And then they sift into every single part of my being and leave me angry, frustrated, annoyed, uncompassionate when they are not met.
They leave me with a weak prayer life because I can clearly “see” that God isn’t hearing my requests–since he’s not answering them. They leave me without grace for my friends and family. After all, if I seek God in my relationships, He “will” provide me with rewarding relationships–full of the joy of the Lord. If my relationships are anything less, my friends and family are simply not holding up to their end of the deal. The expectations leave me in a continuous state of discontentment and self-focus. The other night I expected to be quick and efficient with dinner, enjoy a restful family dinner and quickly move on to the rest of my to-do list so that I could have a little bit of “me” time before bed. When my dad wasn’t home early enough for the expectation I had, I was so frustrated. My gratitude toward having a family dinner was swept away by my frustration with the timing.
While I was chewing on this idea of expectations, I read James 4:1-3: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, yo do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you can spend what you get on your desires.”
Almost every day I pray for wisdom to prioritize my daily to-dos. Almost every day I pray for the joy of the Lord. Every day I pray for other people. This is so godly. So why doesn’t God provide??
But perhaps my desire to prioritize is grounded in my desire to have some time to myself to fulfill my personal wishes. Perhaps my desire for the joy of the Lord is so that I can avoid any avoidable pain for my own sake. Maybe I pray for other people because I want them do be in a better place for my own relief.
But I don’t realize these are my expectations because, well, I hardly name my expectations. But maybe, maybe it’s time I start doing so–even when I realize they’re completely unaligned with my theology.
The truth is, I can know my expectations are unrealistic AND still experience them. But my expectations have the most power to negatively influence me when they’re subconscious. And to let my expectations throw me under the bus isn’t cool. Mixed in with all the selfish, wrong desires to become more like Christ, there is also a hint of love–of a sincere attempt to bring him glory. And I want God to help me rid myself of my wrong expectations to give me pure desire for him and more realistic expectations that don’t hinder my prayer life, my relationships, and steal the joy he wishes to share.
Will you join me in questioning your own expectations as you live daily life?