Great Expectations

I started this blog series talking about love gone wrong and ended up on a side trip remembering about how love had gone wrong over and over again for the Israelites.  False strategies (looking for love and purpose in the wrong venues), delusion (not seeing ourselves, others and even God accurately), and confusion (we just simply don’t know how to love in all situations) are three common problems that mess up our love connections.



But that’s not all.


Expectations can really get us in trouble too. No expectations you ask?  Should we have NO expectations in a relationship? Well of course not. It’s not that extreme.  But my position is this: we have misplaced expectations onto others that rightfully belong within ourselves.


I once knew a gal who was always telling a small group I was in about the ways her husband disappointed her.  He didn’t send flowers enough (only twice a week) or to the appropriate location (she preferred them delivered to her office, not at home) or the “right” shade of pink.  Sheesh. The guy was a constant disappointment in her eyes but to the rest of us? He sounded like a guy who didn’t have a chance of living up to his wife’s harlequin romance perspective of marriage.


I knew a guy who went through a series of wives and families because, and I quote him here, “I expect my wife and children to obey me and for there to be no conflict in the home.”  His idea of conflict resolution? Get rid of the old family and find a new one.


Both examples are of folks who had expectations of how another person was SUPPOSED to make them feel.  The wife expected her husband to make her feel desirable; the husband (of many) expected his family to make him king of the castle.


At the end of the day, we are expecting too much of others if we make someone else responsible for our sense of self-worth.  This is our work. Want to feel respected? Live a respectable life. Along the way we invite others to join us in this life.  People can get to know us and we can get to know them and THEN we make an honest assessment: do our lives fit well together? Do we have affinity?  Good questions. But it is not a sustainable relationship model to ask someone else to make us “feel” a certain, consistent way about ourselves. Self-assessment, self-awareness, self-respect - those are all inside jobs.


How have you perhaps pressured others to do for you that which you are responsible to work out for yourself?


Before I opened my computer this morning I chugged a cup of hot decaf (I know, big sigh, oh for the days of caffeine rushes with no consequences), and layered up for a long walk before the sun woke and began to warm the day.  I walked for two hours with my head full of the cares and troubles of my people. I knew that today I would go to an ICU and pray over a young man whose brain they say is dead. I figured that I might have time to check on a friend who is depressed.  I hoped I might get a chance to hug one of my grandchildren but the schedule did not look promising. I was kind of down in the dumps to tell you the truth.



The sun began to peek out at me about 20 minutes in to my walk.  I began peeling off layers of clothing. First the gloves, then the hat, and soon the first of three sweatshirts.  My body began to warm and my sleepy brain began to wake to the sacred privilege of being capable and free to walk for two hours in the morning just because I wanted to.  Were there issues that would need addressing? Yes. But they would come after this sacred, quiet time of silence and solitude and even stillness, for today there was no wind to nip my nose, only the promise of Spring in the air.


As I hit my stride on the last hill before heading home I glanced up and saw a herd of deer munching on tender green leaves, signs of spring that I had previously been too distracted to notice.  I stopped. I grabbed my camera. I walked slowly toward them. One small step and then a pause. I forgot that there was laundry waiting to be transferred into the dryer before my mad dash to the hospital.  I failed to notice any of the chattering dialogue that had occupied my brain at the beginning of my walk. I knew I had all the time in the world to look at these curious, big-eared babies with their “deer” Mama.  I managed to get some good close-ups and I will treasure the photos for sure. But nothing will compare to that peaceful, wide-awake awareness that God is near and he has us all in his hand. Discontentment may be symptomatic of a need to reassess and reawaken to the possibility of living life large AND on life’s terms.  Or, it might be a sign that we are pursuing false strategies, delusions and are confused. Maybe a fourth way of seeing discontentment exists or even a fifth. This I know: we can be thoroughly discontent one minute and wide awake to the presence of Holy God the next. This is how crazy in love God is with us - pursuing us in love even as we forget to rest in him.  When I can remember God’s love in and around me, I show up in a better space for an ICU visit or a walk with my grandbabies. I can show up for love.


I am not a particularly wise person, but I do understand that taking a long walk every day means more than just the numbers rolling by on a pedometer.  What do you do to get still, find silence, and embrace solitude? Do. What. It. Takes. Today.

Restless, Irritable, and Discontent

Discontented people sometimes pull me aside at various places and ask me questions.  They hope that as a pastor I might have some words of wisdom. I rarely do. But what I notice is how often we fixate on a problem in our lives (often quite legitimate and serious in nature) to the exclusion of paying attention to the small next right steps we could be taking with sacred awareness.



These problems are inevitably other people.  They bemoan and grieve over the folks they loved, wished loved them, lost, and all the other ways love goes awry.  At issue is often the perceived cause of the restlessness, irritability and discontentment. We often look outside ourselves (at others) to explain our internal discontent.  This causes many a relationship snafu. Others cannot and should not have the responsibility or the power to constantly disrupt us. But they do. This appears to be a universal problem.  


There is power in approaching our restless, irritable, discontented selves with an eye on the sacred.


Restlessness, irritability and discontentment are all warning signs that are trying to get us to wake up! They are encouraging us to wake up, slow down and pay attention to what is already true, already peaceful, already worth celebrating in our lives.  AND...stop focusing on other people quite so much. Our distractions with the actions other people take are just that - distractions. Our work is to live the life we want to live; we can do that without requiring other people to participate in our dreams.


Today, what can you celebrate?  Not in a Pollyanna, “It’s all good,” positive thinking and abundant living of the prosperity gospel kind of way, but what can you find to awaken you in the moment EVEN as you are aware of what is breaking your heart and spirit?