Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Unrealistic Expectations of Ourselves and Others
One of the greatest deceptions our culture offers today is the ability to be able to wear many hats and do all things well. If we do not, then, something must be lacking in us or we are "lazy". For many young homemakers, working mothers, as well as their husbands this unrealistic expectation can be crushing. I have heard comments like this: "I must be a horrible parent since I cannot attend that classroom activity this week" or "I know God must be disappointed in me since I cannot go on that mission trip." We can beat ourselves up, but is this really what God expects of us?
In the Book of Micah, the prophet tells the people of Israel what God desires from them. They had been living in disobedience to the Lord, so Micah asks a question and then answers: "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Chapter 6:7-8). We can endeavor to be at every event, show up for church every Sunday, go on all the mission trips we want, but in the end, what is our motive? According to Micah, God does not care about our activity performance. All of the activities may be good but what God wants is our heart and commitment.
When I was busy raising our four children and teaching them at home, I participated in what I was able to manage remembering that my first calling was to our children's upbringing and education. However, I fully admit that there were times when I felt "less than" because I wasn't able to participate in some church event or other community activity. Fortunately, my husband would remind me that none of us can do it all. He pointed out that performance does not gain us points with God. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Too often, we buy into the world's idea that we have to be a super hero able to leap tall laundry piles, fix every broken pipe, mend a child's wounded heart, get the meal on the table with ease and still have time to go to work and read through the Bible in a year. Am I right? We demand far more from ourselves than God does. What we need to do is sit down in prayer with God and ask Him what He has called us to do in our life? After all, He has given to us the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. The condemnation we often feel is not from God but from the Enemy of our souls who tries to make us feel like a loser.
In the same way, we need to avoid judging others harshly when they do not meet our expectations. Some of the things I have learned over the forty three years of our marriage is that: 1) My husband is not a mind reader. I have to communicate with him so he knows what I would like him to do. 2) We both have our faults. Neither one of us is perfect so we should not expect that the other person will do everything just the way we want them to do it. Finally, 3) We tend to pick out things in one another that we find annoying because we may have the same issue ourselves. Unrealistic expectations of our spouse, friends, pastors, or co-workers will damage our relationship to them. Therefore, we need to go back to square one and remember what Micah told the Israelites: we are to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. Humbly is the operative word here.
No matter how hard we may strive to be all things to all people, we will find that it is impossible to meet all the demands made on us. What we need to remember is that our significance and worth as a person is found in Jesus Christ not in our performance. So, when those feelings of guilt rise up because we cannot go to whatever activity it is, we need to think on what it is that God has called us to do and be. We are complete in Him, and before we step out the door to attend another event we really don't have time for, we need to ask ourselves what our motive is. Saying "no" is not a sin, and feeling guilty does not come from the Lord. Let us evaluate our activities based upon godly priorities for our life and calling. Selah!
Picture of the Stetson courtesy of Wiki Commons in the public domain.