Expectations: A Kindness Killer - Crosswalk Couples Devotional - September 6

Expectations: A Kindness Killer
By Jen Ferguson

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.Colossians 1:10-12

All last week, God's whisper of a voice was nagging me. Give up the expectations. Give up the expectations. Give up the expectations.

I shushed Him. I kept plowing on. Things needed to be done. You know—

People have needs.

The laundry needs to be done.

Deadlines need to be met.

Meetings need to be attended. 

The house needs to be clean.

The kids need to do their homework.

We need to eat healthy meals.

The needs were the priority and they needed to be satisfied. I needed to be satisfied. And the only way I would be is if all these things got done—impeccably and on time.

Hey, I know all the right answers. I know life isn't perfect, that so many things don't matter, that people understand, the house doesn't need to be immaculate. I know I cannot possibly meet everyone else's needs and that I'm not responsible for the whole world. I know.

And yet, I don't. Or, at least, I don't live like I know.

Two weeks ago, I started wrestling with this question from Shauna Niequist's book Present Over Perfect:

What attitudes, expectations, neuroses, habits, responsibilities, obligations, commitments, or relationships do you think you would have to upend in order to care more faithfully and purposefully for your soul?

For two days, I opened the book, read the question, and closed the book, the word "expectations," blinking, encased in neon lights, long after I had finished reading it.

give up the expectations inspirational image

The simple answer is this: I didn't want to give them up. God asked for them and I said, "No."

The natural consequence of my disobedience was that I was far from pleasant to be around. My relationship with my daughters suffered. My marriage suffered even more. I seem to unearth all the junky emotions on the people I love most while reserving my capacity for niceties and kindness to the outside world.

My "I'm being a complete and total nightmare" week ended at church on Sunday. First, this slide from the pastor's talk:

“It is a surrender to God, not a substitution for God, that will ultimately satisfy your soul.”

See, I get terribly satisfied when things proceed in an orderly fashion, when schedules click, when everyone does what they need to do, when productivity flourishes, when things are clean. But how long does that really last? A day? An hour? Five minutes? No matter how efficient the planning, no how many obstacles foreseen, no matter how good the training, things can and will go wrong. 

And then, I am decidedly unsatisfied. Because the things of this world never ever truly satisfy. 

I admit—when I am unsatisfied, it is hard for me to be kind, either in my thoughts or in my actions. (I'm just as good as anyone else at doing kind acts while having begrudging thoughts while I'm doing them.) And when my expectations—of myself and others—are so high that it is difficult to reach the state of satisfaction, well, how often am I going to show kindness—true, authentic kindness that comes from my heart to those people I love the most?

And then, the final nail, slide #2:

“Saying yes to God to will cost you something. Saying no to God will cost you more, including what you replace God with.”

In saying "YES" to God, I lay down my expectations. This is hard. We want what we want when we want it, right? Surrendering our expectations means trading our timing for God's timing. It means not doing something we want to do so we can do something God wants us to do. It may mean giving up things that give us a sense of security or recognition. It may mean resting instead of working (Lord, help me) or working instead of being lazy. It may mean saying "no" to the "perfect" opportunity because it's not right for my family. I don't know what it will be for you, but I know there's a long road of surrendering for me.

I've challenged myself to begin writing down my expectations and asking God to help me change them (because I know I cannot do it on my own). I'm ashamed of having some of them, but better way to eradicate shame than to share them? God has to create new pathways of thinking for me to overcome these and the first step is admitting the old ones.

1. I will push myself until I can go no further and no longer. I will keep moving until I can move no more.

2. I will not drop the ball. I will not forget to do things. I will not let anyone down.

3. Schedules must be a well-oiled machine. Be efficient always.

4. If someone needs me, I must meet that need.

Some of these I'm farther along than others, but all of them take battle to overcome. 

But this I do know: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God fights along with me for my relationship with my girls and for my marriage. Together, we will not give up.

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and three high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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