Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Expectations can be Dangerous

Expectations can be dangerous in the life of a Christian.  Sure they are just ideas, but they can lead to sin before you even realize it. 

It was something I didn’t know would be a problem when I got married. I mean seriously, what woman from the time she’s a little girl doesn’t start planning her wedding and thinking about her prince charming, and the life they will have in the castle he takes her to, after hopping down from their horse ride into the sunset… Okay, they weren’t quite that grandiose, and that is probably why I didn’t expect them to cause trouble.  I had very basic ideas of what being a wife would entail. 

I imagined that my house would be tidy and apparently the bad habit of leaving clothes lying on the floor would disappear when I shared a bedroom with someone else. I imagined cooking meals with my husband and eating while discussing our days, then putting the dishes in the dishwasher and snuggling on the couch to watch a movie or read books. I imagined us going on walks hand in hand around a park and exercising together.  I pictured morning breakfasts and occasional picnics.  But upon returning from our honeymoon and going back to work just 3 days later, reality dawned.  And the busy life of meetings, Bible studies and work that I had when I was single didn’t go away, it was now combined with someone else’s life who had more meetings and obligations than I did. So, many nights supper was picked up on the way home and eaten quickly, so we could be out the door.  Now sure, there were the nights I could actually come home and fix a meal (thank you Pinterest, I fell in love with you my first year of marriage looking for quick recipe ideas and I still use you today) but not as often as I expected I would.  And there were snippets here and there like what I described above but over all I couldn’t keep up with the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping and we DIDN’T have a DISHWASHER! My expectations of what life should be and the reality of what life really was created this idea inside me that I wasn’t a good wife.

There would be weeks where I would be exhausted because I had been cleaning and cooking and trying to fit into this ideal wife scenario only to crumble from the weight of it.  There were many times that I allowed feelings of inadequacy to creep in and eventually I would be crying my eyes out on my husband’s shoulder, while I finally admitted to him that I felt like such a failure as a wife. After a few months of me going from fine to I-am-a-horrible-wife, my husband started noticing that my mood shift directly related to housework.  And I would come home to find he had done all the dishes or cleaned off the table or done the laundry.  Which was wonderful, but still I had this expectation that I was supposed to do those things, or at least help with them because I was the wife.  And because he had done them, I was a failure.  Just as an aside, I will tell you that my husband routinely helps around the house, with laundry, dishes, cleaning and trash and never expected me to single handedly handle the housework. But we are very similar in that neither of us are neat freaks, so our house does tend to be on the “lived-in” side more than the clean side from week to week.  And it was in the extended periods of “lived-in” state that I would start to struggle with my self-worth and the feelings of inadequacy. These expectations were fed by comparisons to other women and a product of the era and location I was raised in probably. But wherever they came from they were there.

And there were other times that first year, unrelated to cleaning, when I had expectations of what marriage would be or how I thought my husband should be and when reality didn’t match the expectations, I overreacted, either in anger or sadness.

I was allowing the expectations to become an idol in my life and I didn’t realize it. Instead of living in reality, I was allowing my expectations to dictate my moods causing me to shut down in tears or snap out in anger when he or I failed to live up to the expectations I had.  My focus was on me and my ideas.

Something becomes an idol in your life if it takes your focus of off Jesus. It can be tangible things or people, social media, or even ideas as it was in my case.  And so strong was my desire for my idol that when the expectation wasn’t met I reacted in un-Christ-like ways. When we lose focus on Jesus we stop living our lives the way He would live.  Instead of dealing with ourselves and others with love and patience we react with anger and hostility.  When our desire for things to be our way supersedes our ability to respond to others with kindness and gentleness we have a serious sin issue. And at the root of that sin is pride.

The way we need to deal with this pride and our idols is to replace them with Jesus. My husband pointed out to me that I was expecting to be a perfect wife, when there is only one who is perfect and that is Jesus.  Only by focusing on Jesus, was my true identity as a child of God revealed to me.  So instead of trying to be a perfect wife, through Jesus, I could truly be the wife that God created me to be.  It is in seeking Jesus and focusing our hearts and minds on him and who He is and the work he accomplished on the Cross that our desires are for him and not our idols.  Then we begin to worship Jesus and not our expectations. And through Jesus we can let go of our pride, so when things don’t go as we expect them to, we can respond with grace and love instead of frustration and annoyance.

I will admit to you that I haven’t stopped having expectations.  I did have expectations of what being a mother would be like.  And in the past almost 9 months, some have become reality, but most of the time life as a parent is completely different than I expected. But thankfully, those expectations aren’t idols to me.  So when another night passes and my son is sleeping in our bed instead of in his crib, or when I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed our son and just get him nourished through formula I still feel like a good mother. Because every day when I seek more of Him and less of me, I have peace that I am the wife and mother God created me to be.

Love in Christ,