12.19.2013

Our Expectations - unrealistic, unfair ... and God's - perfect and beautiful.

While talking with friends about the Tim Hawkins concert, specifically the Q&A session, Dennis said something that grabbed my attention.  He was sharing that the small audience was cool and lacking energy when Tim came out to greet us and then stated, "There is a huge expectation waiting for him every time he enters a room.  He has proven that he is funny, so people expect, if not demand, that he delivers every single time he is on stage.  He probably hits a home run most of the time, but it is ridiculous to expect him to do so all the time." 

And it made me think ...
Isn't this exactly what we do to each other in the body of Christ?

Someone we know, love, and respect ...
remembered our birthday with a lovely card
watched our children for us when we were sick
sent an encouraging hand-written note when we were struggling
prayed with us
brought us a meal when we were sick
sent Scripture verses to encourage us
laughed with us
listened to us when we were hurting
served on a mission team with us, experiencing the highs and the lows
cried with us when our own tears would not stop flowing

... and therefore, we expect them to do these things EVERY time we need or want them.  And, they should do so without being asked, because they should always be aware of everything that is happening in our lives.

And if they don't?  If we do not receive the birthday card or the phone call or find a crock pot of hot soup on our doorstep - we toss them into the "not a good friend" pile of our acquaintances.

WHY?!?

Are we not fallible beings who will never be able to meet the needs of everyone we know, exactly when they need us to meet them?
Has anyone we know, even those closest to us, ever met all of our own needs every time one arises?

So why do we put such unrealistic expectations on one another?  We are hurt when someone does not call to tell us they are praying for us when we are struggling, but we never told them we needed prayer.  We are offended when someone makes a rude comment toward us or about us, but we conveniently forget the times we have spoken rashly or thoughtlessly about others.  We are mad when a friend does not offer to help when we are drowning in trials, but we never told her we desperately needed a break.  Yet somehow - all of these things are the failings of the friend - and we are not responsible.

Shame on us.

Scripture is so clear about how we are to think of others:  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3,4

This verse leaves no room for petty attitudes and bitterness when someone does not "perform" the way we want/need/ expect them to perform.  Yes, we may be hurting more than we ever have.  We may be battling health issues, the loss of a baby, defiant children, financial loss, or the sorrow of loving an unsaved spouse.  But even then the Lord asks us to think of others as MORE important than ourselves.  Not equal to ourselves - more important.  More valuable.  More significant.

A friend did not call to see if we got the results of a biopsy.  A husband did not call to check in, even when he knew that one child was being particularly trying.  A sibling did not remember our birthday.  A pastor did not include us in a ministry event.
Are all of these a bummer?  Sure.
But before we allow emotion to take over and control us, did we even take two seconds to consider:
How is their marriage?
How is her ailing mother - is she having to spend a lot of time helping her?
How is she doing with her husband out of town for three weeks?
I know she battles with depression at Christmas, I wonder how she is doing?

If we take even a few moments to "seek to understand" and look at life through their perspective - we will almost always have a bit more compassion and patience for the seeming "failures" of others.
The people God has placed in our lives have their own hurts and trials and troubles ... and when they are drowning in theirs, they cannot always see our needs.  Sometimes it is selfishness and oversight, but that can be quickly reconciled when honest, loving communication takes place.  Either way - we cannot respond (privately or publicly) with emotions that are based solely on our own selfishness because we did not get what we wanted, when we wanted it, from someone we love.

EXPECTATIONS
: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
synonyms:
supposition, assumption, presumption, conjecture, surmise, calculation, prediction, hope

This is how the world defines expectations - expecting/assuming/supposing/hoping we WILL get what we want, either now or later.

But Scripture says, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23  Not one of us will ever do everything right, minister to every need at the precise moment, or meet every expectation set for us.  It is literally impossible to do so because we are sinners who live for self and must fight constantly to walk in the Spirit so we can serve others first.  
Perfection can only be found in Jesus Christ.
It is a fruitless effort to seek it in anyone else.

It is easy to get upset and make declarations of offenses and rudeness when someone ELSE shows their sinful flesh.  But we join them quickly when we sulk and lament over their failings, without acknowledging our own.  Not one of us has ever been the perfect friend, spouse, sister, daughter, or mother.  We must always remember who we are ... sinners saved by grace ... so that we can be obedient to do as Scripture commands:  A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.  Proverbs 19:11

The world says we can and should expect things from others ... but God asks us to SERVE others - because we love HIM.

Oh, Lord, may we lower the human expectations we set upon the backs of others, and seek instead to meet YOUR standards of righteousness.  The more focused we are on Your face, the less we will be able to see the foibles of others, and the quicker we will be to overlook and forgive because we know how many times You toss our own failures and sins into the sea - and promise to remember them no more.
We all have expectations, Lord, and that is okay as long as they are completely rooted and sustained by the truth of Scripture, and what YOU WANT for Your children.
Teach us to love, and accept, one another ... just as You have loved us.  We know we cannot do it on our own, Lord - we need You.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Colossians 3:13

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