Expectations: The Unexpected Killers

Recently, my friend and I were driving home from a speaking event. During the drive, we would throw out different subjects and talk about life serving as teachers/professors, how I was growing and changing with married life, or how our walks with God were progressing and being challenged. Ya know, girl talk.

At one point in the conversation, I shared a story where I got upset with my husband and how it aggravated me that no matter how many times I told him to shut his dresser drawer, he STILL wouldn’t do it. It could drive a person nutso! With animated hands I relayed my woes to her. After depleting my energy from rapid arm movements and constant grumbling, my friend lovingly and gently asked, “What was your expectation?”

I was taken back and confused by her comment. I didn’t realize that my aggravation was rooted in an expectation. Honestly, I just didn’t appreciate the way I would knock my knee on the open drawer every morning. I had a reason to be upset. Well, not entirely.

Over the course of this last week her question caused deeper soul searching. I was on a quest to understand how often my expectations, good or bad, consciously or subconsciously, have become unexpected killers. Why do I give expectations power to control my emotions? What fueled my thoughts? How often did I mistake feeling for fact?

Let’s Talk

Have you ever had a day where nothing goes right? Someone burnt the coffee, you missed a deadline or you just plum forgot an appointment for your kids that you scheduled three months ago. We have all had those days and many times those “expectations” of sipping a nice dark roast brew, meeting a deadline, or watching the ding of your appointment reminder flash across the screen aren’t at all bad.

Yep. We all love those days.

But I noticed that I process and determine the outlines of how my day is going to go. So when my goals and expectations aren’t met they ripple effect to cause a wave of aggravation or reactions to someone or something that normally wouldn’t bother you. For example, if my day is filled with its various stressors from school and failure to wash dishes or have clean laundry, the last thing I want to see is that open dresser drawer. It is a stupid, miniscule pet peeve that escalates to a series of angry mutters and unkind thoughts toward my husband.

Because I live in a world that is corrupt and evil, I am commanded to make the best use of my time including my expectations (Ephesians 5:17). Scripture commands me to look carefully at how I walk and encourages me to try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10,16). My attitude toward the whole dresser drawer fiasco isn’t pleasing to the Lord. Not even close. It had everything to do with how I was feeling. Which if I can provide you any words of wisdom it would be this: “Feelings ARE NOT facts.”

Giving Life…

Now go back to how your day started. Coffee is burnt; okay, irritating, I get that, but a life changer? No. You missed a deadline; did you use your time wisely? Appointments are forgotten frequently; it isn’t the end of the world. Then you come home and your husband left his dresser drawer open again. Your response; exploding anger, zero patience, and no tolerance. You are done with mistakes and forgetfulness; it is all failed expectations.

I understand that we have duties, roles, and responsibilities to honor and uphold. My role as a teacher, wife, friend, sister, daughter cannot be neglected or ignored. But when my my list of duties packs my day everything “that must be done” it leaves no margin time for other people, emergencies, or (dare I say it) God.

There is no room for errors, mistakes, forgetfulness by me or anyone else. What a standard to set for yourself and others. Expectations can obliterate an opportunity to show grace, humbleness, and kindness. Unless they are rooted in something that is firm and steadfast, which isn’t me and you, you will always fall prey to your expectations.

The dresser drawer doesn’t matter. In all reality it is just a stupid wooden drawer. But it is so easy to be angry instead of venting the frustrations of the day to my husband than to talk them out. It is a natural response of mine to grow silent and unresponsive rather than taking my grievances to the Lord in prayer.

Don’t say you are fine if you aren’t. If it’s not the dresser drawer, then what is it? What has throughout the day caused you to let your frustration out on a box?

Applications

How do expectations not become unexpected killers, but rather life-givers, joy-givers?

Glad you asked. Three things come to mind when I think of examining my expectations. JOY. Jesus, Others, You.

Jesus is the founder, author, and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).  I am sinful and my wants, flesh desires are warped to make me number one (Jeremiah 17:9). Any thing that makes me look good and feel good is what I demand. Hence, the putrid fabrication of my expectations. They are rooted deeply into a heart that is horribly ravaged by pride and chemically altered by what I think I need (1 John 2:16). It is ONLY by the grace of Jesus that I am able to, in light of His giving me new life through His death and resurrection, turn away from self and seek after desires and wants that are purified and founded on what Jesus wants.

Others, this is a tough one. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind, and mind (Matthew 22:37-39). However, in the very next two verses Jesus tells them that the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). If my expectations are centered around Christ’s commands, it counteracts my natural inclination to love myself more than others. For instance, pushing in the dresser drawer rather than spitefully giving my husband the silent treatment.

I can still have my expectations, but my attitude needs to be open to changes and hiccups in the day. I respond better when I remember who I am living for (Galatians 2:20). It releases me to open my time for others, to be compassionate when they make mistakes, to be willing to admit that the day just didn’t go as planned.

You. Please tell me that you noticed that, you, are last. It isn’t to indicate that you have no importance or feelings or standards. But it isn’t all about you. It is about the advancement of God’s kingdom. People say that you may be the only Bible people ever read. The attitude that you display when your expectations aren’t met reveal what you truly value first. Is it Jesus or you?

Breathe. Don’t bottle it up. Be honest. Pray and ask for God’s hands to remove the expectations that will hinder you from pleasing him and from destroying relationships with people. Or you may need to simply evaluate what you expectations you aren’t communicating but expecting people to follow.

It all started with a story about how my husband never closes his dresser drawer, but I didn’t imagine how one innocent question from my friend would cause my thoughts to fire off into this scatterbrained mess. I hope you know you aren’t alone in this fight, but that God is there always to take your burden, to listen to your cries, and to show you His ways.

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