Monday, September 9, 2013

Godly expectations--Giving my future, dreams, and my relationships to God

Expectations lead to disappointments.

Atleast, that's what the world had taught me.  For most of my life, I have come into relationships and life situations with all kinds of expectational baggage.  There was expectations about how many children I would have, what kind of job I would hold after college, the kind of Godly man I wanted to marry (He was supposed to be a male Mary Poppins-- practically perfect in every way! lol),  the way church is supposed to be, the way my parents should or should not have treated me, what constituted a friend who was worthy of my time and love, the list goes on and on and on.  Usually, I was not always aware of the expectation I had, until it was unmet.  Then I would be left frustrated and hurt, wondering why once again someone I had placed my trust in and needed had let me down, or why I was incapable of disciplining myself to attain my perfectionistic goals.   I truly believed, if I did all the right things I could have the "perfect" life, and all the "perfect" relationships.  All of my self worth was centered on being accepted and valued based on what I did for others; the inverse is, it was really hard to love others when I struggled with bitterness and anger inside for all the unmet expectations, and the self-loathing that resulted from my own prideful arrogance that I would be the one to DO IT by myself, and wouldn't God be happy then?  It sounds ridiculous, but that's how I was.  And the whole time, I was a believer in Christ.  I knew him.  He walked with me.  He was patient, and moved in my life.  But even though my faith was a saving faith in Christ and the power of his resurrection, for much of the time my eyes were still blinded to my own prideful struggle with self -sufficiency in the area of ungodly expectations.

So once God began showing me how my expectations were harming my relationships and even interfering with His plans for me,  I began to think the answer was to have NO expectations at all.  I mean, expectations were what were hurting me, right?  They were rarely met, and I struggled with despair when I was the one who failed to meet them, and bitterness when it was someone else.  It's funny to me how often when God begins showing me the ugly things inside of my heart, even my initial response after repentance is to try to figure it all out and clean up the mess on my own.  Which is just again, my pride.  And truly insanity.  God never meant for me to walk this faith walk on my own.  The whole time, it was about RELATIONSHIP with him.  So for a while, I tried having NO expectations.  Which is almost nearly impossible.  Again, most of the time we don't even recognize we have them until it's too late and they are again unmet.  And how do you live for the future when you have no vision to strive toward?  So that didn't go so well either.

But in the last year or so, God has been bringing me to see that the problem with the expectations is not when we have them, but having them when they aren't given to us by HIM.  One of the biggest things God wants me to give him is my future.  All my dreams, all my plans, all the things I think my husband should do and be, my children's gifts and futures.  All of it, a blank check to do with as He chooses.  And I can do this, now, because I see His goodness, His mercy, and His great love for me and the people I love.  He loves them more.  So what it truly requires is coming to God, laying down my old expectations, crucifying them, and waiting on the Lord to show me HIS plans and what HE desires for my life and the relationships I have.  Which means being in His word.  Being prayerful---probably alot more listening than talking.  And being patient when the answers aren't given to me microwave fast.  

I see this in my son's life right now.  It is hard, as a mom, to see your child in pain, and not know what to do to make it better.  When even the diagnosis you had hoped would bring total relief and healing has not managed to do that, all you can do is pray and cry out to God.  There are days I HATE Crohn's disease.  My expectations for my son never involved this disease from the pit of hell.  My own desires for my son are that he would be able to run and play and hang out with his friends, enjoy that quick mind of his (did I mention he is a super smart kid?),  and that his own body would cooperate with him and allow him to do all the things he wants to do.  Regular IV infusions, colonscopies and endoscopies, NG tubes, weekly injections of meds---none of these things were the expectations I had of how my son's life should go.

But God knows.  And let me tell you something.  God's plans for my son are GOOD plans, plans to prosper him and not to harm him, but to give him a HOPE and a FUTURE.  That's in Jeremiah in the Bible, and we Christians love to quote that verse, but when the Jewish people were being given that verse, they were about to go into captivity.  We can't always judge how good God's plans are by our measure of what seems like a good thing to happen to someone, and what seems like a hard thing.  The captivity of God's people was a good thing, not because of how FUN it would be, or pleasant, because of how God would use it to turn people's hearts back to him, I think. 

I don't think God MAKES people sick, but I do believe he is sovereign over the earth.  And somehow, like Job in the Bible, the enemy can only do in a believer's life what God has allowed, so far and no more.  So if God allows it, He has plans already to use it for His glory.  And the thing I am finding about having expectations in God are that, so long as I have had my mind renewed and received them from HIM, they will ALWAYS be met.  With God,  expectations do NOT lead to disappointments.  He is faithful, even when I am not.  It's truly humbling and amazing.

So I let go of the expectation I had for my son, and for myself too.  I come to God, open to His plan, which I already know is MORE glorious and BETTER than anything I would begin to come up with on my own.  And I rest in the contentment of it today.  My son has been hurting on the couch today, and my heart still hurts to watch him.  But in the midst of that, as he and I both turn our hearts more and more to God, there is peace.  In a future I have always had little control over,  I can rest and trust in the one who knows the end from the beginning.  I wonder what path of deliverance God may bring to my son.  But my voice is like that of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the book of Daniel.   As they stood, ready to be burned for their faith in God, they laid their expectations on the altar also:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” -Daniel 3:16-18

These men of faith came to God with open hearts of what he would do or not do.  Their faith was in his character, irrespective of whether he delivered them or not out of the trial.  That's the kind of faith I want to have.  Not faith that just has an expectation of deliverance, but a trust that God is working for my good and my son's behalf, and He is going to cause the best possible outcome for our good and His glory.  

I'm pretty sure that as long as I live, God will be bringing me on a journey of recognizing areas where I have not laid my expectations down, and then my repenting and laying them down to receive right ones from Him.  Maybe not.  I've still got alot to learn. 

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