"We're not mad...just disappointed!"
This is one of those statements that cuts deep. Hearing this from the ones we respect and love is like a dagger to the heart. Personally, I'd rather someone be mad at me than disappointed. Their anger will subside given enough time. But the tinge of disappointment lingers. It's as though I've crushed their hopes and dreams by not upholding the expectations they had for me.
Chances are, you have disappointed a few people in your life. The reason being, everyone we surround ourselves with has certain expectations of us. Our parents have expectations about the individual we will become. Our teachers have expectations about the grades we will receive. Our friends have expectations about our loyalty. Our employers have expectations about how well we will perform. With these expectations comes undue pressure. Is it a wonder why many of us have issues with performance and anxiety? No wonder ideas of grace and mercy seem so foreign to us and are so tough to grasp.
I have felt this pressure in my life. And at times the expectations of others have become a weight far too burdensome to bear. For me, this seems to be especially true as a follower of Christ. Add to that the calling I sense God has placed on my life to do ministry and take into account my ministerial degree. Perhaps those factors give you a glimpse of how the expectations can grow exponentially overwhelming. Sometimes I feel as though everyone expects me to be perfect.
There are expectations about my behavior. I won't smoke, drink or chew, or run with girls who do. There are expectations about how I will dress and look. There are expectations about what I will do with my spare time. There are expectations about who is suitable for dating. They need to have these attributes, those attitudes, that demeanor, etc. There are expectations about what jobs I will take. There are expectations about what places I will (and will not) enter and patronize. They are a Christian bookstore. That place is too sinful. That business supports gay marriage. With all of these expectations, how is anyone (let alone leaders within the church) to stand a chance?
Just look at these staggering statistics from leaders of the church:
33% feel burned out within the first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is a hazard to their family.
50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
My feeling is that those trying to walk closely with God have felt the pressure to perform on a regular basis. In all honesty, some expectations are understandable and even Biblical. I will admit to you that I do strive to meet many of those expectations for that reason. I will also admit to you that, numerous times a day, I fail at meeting them. In part because I am an imperfect being. And because many of the expectations others place on every one of us is unrealistic. Those expectations are like a pedestal. And if we know anything about pedestals, it should be that they easily come crashing down. We need only turn to the Bible to see this.
Look to some of the greats of our Christian faith and you will see what I mean. I bet the expectations placed on them were far greater than any I have felt the need to meet. Granted, we read the accounts of everyone I am about to mention and see they exceeded those expectations and did do some great things. But we also see every last one of them disappointed people and fell flat on their face. Noah stepped out in faith and built an ark during a drought. Keep reading and you will discover that he also got drunk and exposed himself. Abraham offered his only son Isaac as a sacrifice and was the father of many nations. The rest of the story reveals that he wavered back and forth and lied to cover his own hide. Moses delivered his people from exile. He also argued with God and had quite a temper. David, the king of Israel, the man after God's own heart, part of the lineage of Jesus was part of a major cover-up. Elijah put all the prophets of Baal in their place only to tuck and run eventually throwing a pity party. Lot got drunk and committed incest. Jacob cheated his brother. Jonah was cold-hearted and bitter. Jeremiah had a less than thriving ministry. John the Baptist had doubts about Jesus. James and John, the disciples of Jesus, were nicknamed "Sons of Thunder." Peter denied Jesus three times. I think you get the point.
One of the great things about Scripture is its honesty! The Bible doesn't pull any punches. It gives you the entire story. Not the watered down, fairy-tale version of what happened. Noone's downfalls and shortcomings are glossed over. We see the good, the bad and the ugly. And I take comfort in that. It puts things into perspective knowing that I am not alone.
So, this morning, I was reminded, yet again, those expectations don't matter. My worth and value is not based on fulfilling anyone's expectations--even my own. "If you accept the expectations of others, especially the negative ones, then you will never change the outcome;" turns out Michael Jordan was onto something. The only expectations that are truly significant are those given by my heavenly father. And the great thing about these expectations is that I don't have to meet them by my own doing or in my own power. He will enable me to not only meet, but surpass them! Afterall, God wants to do accomplish more through me than I want to accomplish myself.