by Christine Carter
I have been thinking a lot about expectations. Does this word feel burdensome to you? Does it make you feel full of anxiety like it does me? Maybe, and maybe not. But expectations, is a heavy word and sometimes it feels like there is no limit to them.
I was listening to a YouTube broadcast of church yesterday and the pastor said grace is free, but it isn’t cheap. Because it comes with expectations. Expectations that God’s grace and mercy will fill us with the Holy Spirit and will change us from the inside out. Our lives are expected to be transformed by God’s grace.
Besides the expectations God has for us as followers of Christ, there are expectations in many other areas of our lives. We often feel this from our jobs, our homes, our children, our spouses, our friends, our parents, our church, and even ourselves. The expectations of others are what the people in our lives feel that we should be meeting for them. Some are realistic, but some may be unrealistic.
In this humanistic society that we live in there is a me-first attitude. It is human nature to want things for ourselves. We are bombarded with social media messages and memes that say to let go of people and things that do not serve us, and that it is not selfish to take care of yourself first. After all, if you don’t love yourself first, how can you love anyone else? But where does God fit into all of this? And what does his word tell us is the first commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and the 2nd is to love your neighbor as yourself. Self is mentioned last in this equation, but there is an inferred assumption that you already love yourself. It’s human nature.
So, back to expectations. As Christians our focus and attention should be on honoring God first. As we receive his Grace into our lives, and He provides the help of the Holy Spirit in us, it is a natural expectation that we will desire to live a life that God will be pleased with.
All other expectations fall in line behind that. If we are honoring God in our decisions and in our actions, we will love God, others and ourselves, and our focus will no longer be on meeting the expectations of others. That burden is removed. We don’t have to carry it anymore. If we are living out these two commandments in our lives, we can know that we are doing all we need to do.
If others place unrealistic expectations on us or are unhappy with our focus, we have to let it go. Our greatest expectation in life is to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. I am not saying that this is easy, but when we do this it will automatically be displayed in our actions. If you know that you are making every effort to do this with the help of the Holy Spirit, this can be a freeing realization.
The Bible says they will know we are Christians by our love. It says that love conquers a multitude of sins, and it says God is love. What’s not to love about that? If we are living a life of loving God and loving others as ourselves, the burden of self-focused expectations should also be released.
For those with husbands or wives, we know that we made a promise before God to love, honor, and cherish our spouse. For those with children or nieces and nephews, we know they are a wonderful blessing from God. The Bible tells us ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. So, God expects us to cherish them and protect them. For those with aging parents, we know we are to honor them so that our days might be long upon the earth. This level of care may increase as the need grows. These will all be priorities in our lives. My mother always encouraged me to live life by the acronym JOY, Jesus, others, you. This is God’s expectation of us. As we learn to follow that simple reminder, other burdens and unrealistic expectations should begin to lift off of our shoulders, and we should have more freedom and peace in our lives.
About the Author
Christine Carter is a working mom of a 12-year-old active son Marquis and has been married to her best friend Brent Carter for almost 15 years.
She attends Bethel: the Church at Philadelphia Mills, where she has been attending for almost 12 years.
She is currently a Quality Assurance Specialist at Gate 1 Travel in Fort Washington, PA. She resides in Levittown, PA, where she has lived for most of her life.
She is currently attending John Brown University’s online program where she is working on finishing a Psychology Degree which she began at JBU in NW Arkansas in the 1990s. She expects to graduate in May 2021.
She has always enjoyed writing, and poetry has been her method of choice. She believes that if you have a talent or a gift from God, or a desire to be used for His kingdom, He will make a way. You simply need to be willing.
You can read Christine’s Diary of a Prodigal Daughter column on the 3rd Friday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.