Expectations

I tend to set unrealistic expectations on myself. This isn’t a bad thing…sometimes it’s exhausting though.

I don’t hold anyone else to the standards I hold myself to. If I did, no one would live up to it.

I have grace for others, but not for myself. I chide my friends for being too hard on themselves, but I do it to myself all time.

I feel like if I can’t do it all, I’m a failure.

I need to cook everything from scratch, educate my children, workout daily, have spiritual revelations, be a sexy wife for my husband, and fix the world’s problems…or else I feel like not enough.

But I am enough. His word tells me that I’m enough. Nothing that I do will make me more or less to him.

What are God’s expectations of us? I know in my heart that I can’t earn my salvation. Jesus already paid the full price, once and for all. (Heb. 10:10)

I have nothing left to prove.

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

It’s not as complicated as I make it.

I shouldn’t do those things out of guilt or obligation but out of a pure desire to love.

Love isn’t the same as guilt. But how often I confuse the two!

It’s great to have goals. It’s great to have expectations.

But I shouldn’t be doing anything out of fear. Out of guilt. Out of duty.

It should be from an overflow of love and abundance in my life. 

I can’t be everything to everyone, but I can be that one person to that one person.

I think of my friend Dina. She’s a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I think of Dina’s eyes welling with tears, telling us she never would have left the refugee camp if she’d known the US would be like this.

Yes, she is safe here. That counts for a lot. But she misses her husband who was left behind.

Everything in the US costs money. She wants to work but she is 9 months pregnant and can’t until after the baby is born.

Even then it will be hard, but right now it is impossible.

In Africa you can just build a house, she says.

“Everything is money in America.”

She just wants her family to be together.

I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not supposed to fix everything.

I can’t fix everything.

I can sit with her though. I can feel those tears. I can pray.

I have a bracelet that says: 65 million refugees. I commit to pray.

I wear this bracelet as a reminder that prayer is more important than just fixing.

When I feel overwhelmed by the needs, I can pray.

When I feel helpless, I can pray.

The Lord will fight the battle; you need only to be still.

Exodus 14:14

This isn’t an excuse to be inactive. But it is a reminder of who our help really comes from.

It is through him that we do anything. We don’t need to carry the weight of it ourselves.

When I’m spending a lot of time with refugees I feel like I did in Haiti: Privileged. Undeserving. Wanting to help but not sure how.

There doesn’t seem to be enough resources in the world.

How can I sit with you in your grief, suffering, and need – how can I help carry your burden – without harming myself in the process?

One thing I know I can do is drop the unreasonable expectations.

I’ve heard the term “ministry fatigue” thrown around a lot. I now know how real it is.

And I’m no pastor. This isn’t my day job. People don’t carry expectations about me – about all the things I “should” be doing.

I may have unrealistic expectations of myself, but that’s slightly different. I understand why ministers need sabbaticals and sabbaths.

Poverty is depleting. Sickness is overwhelming.

Once you’re involved you can’t just tune out the situation.

It isn’t a job you can clock in and clock out of.

I can’t flip a switch and enjoy myself after a heartbreaking conversation with a friend or a refugee.

The needs out there are greater than my capacity to fix them.

I remind myself -and my friends- that resting isn’t a sign of weakness or inadequacy.

I sometimes get frustrated at my body for needing rest, but it’s actually necessary.

Think of running. Even the world’s greatest runners need rest days. It’s the body’s chance to recover and build muscle.

Recovery is actually just as important as the workout.

But it doesn’t feel important, so we overlook it.

Self-care isn’t selfish.

One of the cool things Oasis International has started offering is stress-relief classes. That’s actually a great resource. I can only imagine the chronic anxiety many refugees face upon coming here.

Reality sets in and what seemed like a privilege is now a curse.

The language is unfamiliar.

The culture is strange.

There’s no easy way to get around or make friends.

Just having a place to go like Oasis to meet people and make connections is huge.

I’m in awe of the refugees I’ve met. Their determination to make it this far, and keep fighting through the trauma they already carry with them….

I can’t fix anyone’s trauma. But God can heal a broken heart.

God can use me in a practical way to share a meal or to give a ride, even when I feel I have nothing of value to offer.

I can sit and hold space with you.

I can hold your hand while you cry.

I can make a cup of tea.

I can’t truly understand but I can be present.

Maybe that’s all God is asking.

I wrestled with not feeling productive enough after I quit my day job.

Yes, I still volunteer, and yes I still care for my children. But it didn’t feel like enough without the busy-ness of work.

But I don’t have to be “productive” every minute of every day in order to be “enough” in his eyes.

One of the best things I can do is have an “unproductive” day every now and then.

Visiting is awesome. Volunteering is great. Giving is important.

But sometimes God meets us in the stillness.

He uses me in my weakness.

“Productivity” and “Efficiency” aren’t part of his economy.

Sometimes loving is letting go.

Sometimes trust is being still.

Maybe if we all lowered our expectations of ourselves just slightly, God could meet us in that space.

Maybe if we slowed down just slightly, God could actually move our hearts in the right direction.

Maybe if we took the time to listen, God would use us for his kingdom – in the “small” and “unimportant” things.

In the “everyday” things.

I set myself up for failure when I expect too much of myself.

But God uses the “insignificant” and the “not good enough” for his purposes.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

1 Corinthians 1:27

How can we simultaneously lower our expectations of ourselves, while letting God work through us with grace? How can we obedient out of joy and love, not guilt or obligation?

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One Comment

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  1. There is so much to say about this topic. I set unrealistic expectations for myself, too. But I think discipleship and the church as a whole is a huge part of God’s answer here. For example, my husband and I could only put in a limited amount of hours per week serving refugees or any other cause. But if we can activate others to ministry on a regular basis, and teach them to pass this onto to faithful people who will teach others also…the impact can be huge. Like you said, we can serve the people God has obviously called us to, and teach those people to serve in the ways God gives them, as well.

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