Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Don’t Expect Too Much!

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“Don’t expect more than they are capable of.”

On a road trip, a new friend verbalized something I had been pondering for several months. While taking her to a speaking engagement in a city a couple hours away, she shared what the Lord had spoken to her heart while praying about a difficult relationship. That simple statement helped her navigate some painful circumstances and experience peace in the midst of it.

That simple statement also shed light on what the Lord had been speaking to my own heart, to extend grace to the challenging relationships in my own life.

It’s good to have high standards for our personal and work relationships. There should be kindness when dealing with conflict. There should be respectful and safe behavior at all times. Abuse of any kind is unacceptable. However, many of my disappointments stem from expecting too much from others.

For example…

There are people in my life that are not detail oriented. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. They can come up with systems to help them become more organized and efficient, but they won’t become detail oriented.

There are people in my life that avoid dealing with emotional issues. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. Some people do not have emotional intelligence. They can learn listening skills and acknowledge the pain of others, but the emotional realm will not be a strong or comfortable area for them.

There are people in my life that seems to live in a completely different universe than I do. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. No matter how much I explain my perspective, it won’t help them to see things my way. A good friend recently shared why she thinks marriage can be so hard. “We only want our own way all the time.” I agree with her, and I believe this applies to all our relationship troubles on some level. My way is the right way. Your way is the right way to you. Different universes.

Acceptance of the way other people are wired or the way they see things allows me to extend grace to them. It helps me feel peace instead of disappointment, while adjusting my expectations.

All relationships are messy. Some more than others. Not expecting too much from others helps us thrive when relationships are less than smooth.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3).

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the people in my life. Help me to see them through Your eyes rather than my own. Teach me to get rid of the plank in my own eye before insisting on helping others with the speck in theirs. Help me not to expect too much from others. May I approach all my relationships with realistic expectations and grace.

 

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Posted in Character, Faith

All You Need is Love???

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“They are way too young.”

“They are totally incompatible.”

“They’ll be divorced within a year.”

These words were spoken over my husband and me in 1985 shortly after we were engaged to be married. Yes, we were young. On our wedding day I was barely 18; he was almost 20. We were opposites in almost every way. Except for our love for Jesus and each other, and our desire to change the world, we had little in common. We’ve had some rocky seasons in our marriage, but I’m happy to say we just celebrated our 31st anniversary.

The years have flown by. It almost seems like yesterday that Jonathan and I decided to get married. We were so full of hopes and dreams, and convinced that it was God’s will for our lives. I believed that the Lord had spoken a promise to my heart.

“This is the one I have chosen for you. Through your relationship, you will learn about My love.”

My heart longed to experience God’s love more deeply. Learning about His love through marriage to my best friend sounded like a fairy tale. What more would a girl need?

You’re probably shaking your head at my naivety.

“Relationships are complex,” you’d counsel.

“You can’t expect that much from another human being,” you’d caution.

I’m not sure my teenage self would have listened though.

Fast forward twelve years, and I would have been ready to listen. Jonathan and I were the pastors of a small church in a small town. Jonathan worked a full time job 60 miles away to support our family. My days were spent homeschooling four kids, caring for a newborn with special needs, and holding down the fort of ministry. I struggled with depression that, in hind sight, should have been treated medically. I loved my husband, I loved my kids, and I loved our congregation, but I felt lonely and empty. The Lord’s promise spoken to my heart was a distant memory. I wondered if I had been hallucinating.

As I questioned the Lord through tears, I felt prompted to read 1 Corinthians 13. I argued, “But I already know what it says. That’s the Love Chapter.” Nevertheless, I opened to the passage.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).

I continued with my defense. “Lord, I’m doing my best to love, but I’m not receiving this kind of love from anyone.”

Ever so gently, the Lord pointed out my error. “This isn’t talking about human love. This kind of love comes only from Me.”

Suddenly my eyes were open to God’s precious love poured out on me. Beyond the gift of new life through Jesus, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit (which would be more than enough), He cared intimately for me. Because I had experienced His faithful love, I was able to love my husband, children, and church. They were doing their best to love me, but I expected their love to make me whole. Human love, no matter how wonderful, can never do that.

Are we expecting too much of our human relationships?

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Please understand, I believe we should invest in our marriage, family, and friendships. God designed marriage to be a picture of Christ’s love for His Church, and we should strive for that (Ephesians 5:25-33). Our relationships should be healthy and respectful. There is no room for abuse.

However as human beings, even with the best of intentions, we love imperfectly. In healthy relationships, we let each other down. We get in trouble when we expect love from people to fill the emptiness in our souls. That place belongs solely to the Lord.

It’s true. All we need is love. But it’s God’s love we need. As we live in His love, we are able to love others whether or not they deserve it. Our relationships may be lacking or even broken, but they never determine our worth. When our hearts are filled with God’s love we thrive as His dearly loved children regardless of the circumstances.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your perfect love. I am grateful for the kindness and acceptance you have poured out on me. Help me experience Your love and receive worth from You alone. As I live in Your love, empower me to love those You have placed in my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Tyranny of Should

There is something I really enjoy about getting older. I have a much clearer sense of who God has created me to be, and I feel less pressure to be someone I am not. Even with this greater understanding of freedom, there are times I still live under the heavy weight of man-made expectations. I call this the Tyranny of Should.

Our society paints a picture of a successful woman. She has a full time career. Her children are well-behaved, and thrive at school and in the extra-curricular she actively supports. Her marriage is fulfilling with lots of romance and spice. She is a good cook and keeps an organized and spotless home. She exercises regularly to maintain her attractive figure. In the church, the successful woman looks a little different. She may not work full time, but she is actively involved in church ministry and is supportive of her husband. She spends hours in prayer and Bible study, and opens her home in hospitality.

There are equally demanding expectations on men. It’s overwhelming! What’s a person to do?

It’s important to periodically take stock of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I ask the following questions.

What has God called me to do?
God’s calling will change throughout the seasons of our lives. I devoted years investing in my kids and being the primary support person for my pastor-husband. I loved it (for the most part) and knew that God had called me to do it. As my kids grew and needed me less, a new direction became more defined. I have been called to minister in the marketplace, and I have a pastor’s heart.

God’s calling guides my activities. The things I do must relate to His calling. I need to let the distractions go (as good as they may be).

What are my priorities?
We all have 24 hours in a day. I cannot do everything. My time must be spent on what is important to me. In order to see my priorities clearly, I write a list and rank them in order. The top five items are where I spend the majority of my time. Even though I may like other things, I must keep focus.

Because my time is limited, I also adjust my expectations for how much time I spend on my priorities. My top priority has always been cultivating my relationship with Jesus. When I had five young children at home, my devotional time looked much different than it does today. I longed for long hours of silence to listen and pray, but that wasn’t realistic. Now my house is quiet and I don’t long for silence anymore. On the other hand, with my current schedule, I only have 20 minutes a day to exercise. I know it’s not optimal, but it’s what I can do.

Resist the Tyranny of Should. Pursue what God has called you to do, and do what you can do with confidence.