Expectations or Limitations?

Apparently I can be a slow learner. Nothing I have to share today is brand new or earth-shattering or even anything I haven’t blogged about before, but I’m pretty sure my life has been changed completely over a period of time by what I am painstakingly, gradually grabbing hold of in my thought pattern. I think we go back and forth on our views of expectations. They can be positive, push us to something better, hold up a standard, help to avoid settling for the mediocre. But then we also realize that they can cause us to be resentful, perfectionist, and demanding of ourselves and others. I have been all through these processes many times with my expectations of myself, my husband, my children, my circumstances, my life, and even my God. But lately as He, in His infinite patience, continues to work on my heart, I have realized that they are something far more sobering than I had previously suggested to myself. They are limitations. They are boundaries on how my husband can bring me joy, on how my children can delight my heart, on how my all-powerful, all-wise God can satisfy me.

Is that what I want? When my husband arrives home at night and chooses to do five things around the house and with our family, do I want to feel a lingering sense of resentment because those five things did not match my list of what should have been accomplished, or pettier still, maybe one or two out of five didn’t make the cut? When my child struggles with his flesh, his stubborn will, his learning process of self-control, do I want that to be able to even begin to reach through to touch my heart with despair because of my expectations that he should have “gotten it” by now? Because I obviously get it ALL the time. *choke, sputter, snort* Do I want to set an expectation on my circumstances, on my location, my financial status, my timing or lack of blessings, or any other part of my life so that when God chooses something different than my plans, I live in a status of “why” or “why not” when I could be reveling in His work?

We often talk about “getting real” or “cutting ourselves a break” so that we can find peace and survival in our role of motherhood. If I could explain one key to the delight God is giving me in my roles of wife and mother it is this: I can let go. It is not about me. It is not about what I want. My clean house. My crafty, beautiful decor. My perfect husband. My pretty life. My free time. My smart, obedient kids. MY…M¥…MY. I can put those things aside! I can find freedom and wholeness and utter joy by putting my expectations somewhere else.

Here is a small example of how He has been working in me and faithfully showing me His path to freedom. Yesterday I was all pumped up, ready to hit our routine and schedule. John heading to his new job, school starting, I would be up early, get ready, have my quiet time, and school would be done before we left for gymnastics at lunch time. We have a bit of catching up to do because of taking a longer moving/holiday break and missing some work in December. You can only imagine all the expectations lurking in what I just described. Mounds of them, HEAPS of the dastardly little varmints. As I struggled with beginning already behind, I received the first gift to settle my heart. Remember that God has been giving me the gift of understanding Him as my Immanuel: God with us? Guess what? That was our Name of God for the next few weeks. And now I will have the opportunity to spend weeks with my children sharing what He has been teaching me and dwelling even further on how He is God with me. I think we can manage being a little behind. 🙂

Then it started again in earnest when I headed to bed for that almost decent bedtime to get a good start on the next day. My one year old, who is usually a wonderful sleeper, woke up right as I was nodding off to sleep. And then he woke up again, and again, and again. Until 2:00 am I was trying everything from his bed, to my bed, to the rocking chair to figure out why he would fall asleep only to wake up crying. Finally he hit a deeper sleep and stayed there for the rest of the night. You can imagine how the short night did absolute wonders for the magnificent start I had planned. Everything was a little later, I did have my quiet time, but I wasn’t ready for the day, and here we went. Everyone was on a learning curve getting back to chores being done efficiently and coming promptly back to the table to start lessons. My delightful third born had to be disciplined several times before ten o’clock, and I’m pretty sure everyone is deaf only to the sound of my voice sometimes. But as my son handed me the story he had written at the completely wrong time on the clock to be doing this subject and while everyone else was making large messes, again I felt my heart still. Not what I planned, still beautiful. I was so thrilled with his little story of a dog saving a little boy at the beach. It didn’t have to be my way, this was good. 🙂

I rushed through lunch, got myself ready, and left a few subjects to be finished when we came home after gymnastics. Deep breath. Then we got there. And I kind of wished I hadn’t ever come as I in slow motion horror became that mom I am pretty sure everyone is silently watching and thinking, “She is absolutely crazy to be having ANOTHER baby when her three year old acts like that.” Oh, yes. Listen to the teacher? Nope. Wait patiently for his turn? Heavens, no. Kick little girls as he swings on the bars, roll into little boys in his way on the mat, and come out of class THREE times? Oh, yes, you betcha. That one’s mine. And we covered the same territory AGAIN. Talked through all the things we have been learning, working on, disciplining, teaching, correcting, instructing, etc., etc., etc. Same song, 27th verse, tired version, a whole lot worse. But we came home, finished the school work, ate leftovers that could be prepared very quickly, got a bit done, and headed to bed. And there came the next redemption for the day. While thinking I would quickly finish with bedtime and try to catch up to prepare for a better day tomorrow, I instead was given the opportunity to settle my heart, and to drop all those things and have a beautiful conversation with that son who was ready to talk. About Jesus and what He wants and how His strength is there for Mommy and for my boy. About our bad choices and mistakes. About wanting our teachers and little friends to see Jesus in us and how the fruit of the Spirit helps them to see Him instead of our mistakes. And as we lay there in the dark holding each other and singing, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith…” this conversation with God began in my heart. He said, “I like My day that I gave you. Your day wasn’t good enough. Your day was just good for today and for making you look good. My day was good for molding your heart and theirs. Don’t limit Me with your expectations. Don’t hide My work by calling it a failure. Let Me do more than what you want. I have bigger plans than a clean house, well-behaved kids, and an efficient schedule.” And I breathed a sigh of relief. Not my day. His. Letting go feels so good.

Because what is another sad truth about these limitations? On the rare occasion that they are actually met, what do I have? A met expectation. That’s it. My husband comes home and does all five things on my list tonight? Check. Met expectation. My child behaves perfectly? Check. Met expectation. My God blesses me with life and love and Himself? Check. Met expectation. My house is clean, the school is done, dinner is made, but if I were REALLY good at planning this thing out, I would have had time to (fill in the blank with project all truly efficient planners would accomplish). WHERE is the JOY? And we wonder why we feel harried as moms? Why we feel no peace? Why we struggle to love our calling in the day to day? Because at best we have a met expectation and at worst we have a failure. There is no LIVING in that, there is only survival. And that is often all we are doing.

As my thoughts took still another turn during my little chat with God on this subject, I began to see something even more sobering. Each of these expectations represents a little idol in my heart. We laugh at the Israelites, trying to figure out why they were always whining, why they couldn’t for five minutes seem to pull their acts together and just follow the first commandment. One God, people. It’s not that hard. Or is it? God promised abundant blessings to them if they would have one God. And He promises it to us too. Abundant blessings of peace, joy, and fulfillment whether our situation is to our liking and comfort or not. But my expectations don’t allow me one God, they limit me to tiny, ridiculous, limiting, stifling, little idols all over my heart. And what breaks that unsettled heart of mine even further is that they stifle my family as well, my relationships, and the ability of others to see past ME and to see my beautiful Savior instead.

What if God had the same expectations of me that I have of myself or those around me? I would never meet them. I would always fall short. I would never win. There would be no reward for me, no blessing, no delight from His heart in who I am. But He took my expectation and put it on Another. He put it on Shoulders with strength enough to carry the expectations that should have belonged to me and you and everyone else. And He leaves His expectations there. So what am I still doing holding mine? I lay them at Your feet, Lord. Not my will, but Yours be done!

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

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