This morning I received an email from a friend of mine who is a missionary in Mexico. I usually hear from him about once a week and we briefly tell each other how we can be praying.
He shared about his interns being too comfortable and needing to come to the end of themselves. He knew he couldn’t be the one to bring them to that point, but wondered at least how he could lead them down that road.
It got me thinking about our expectations for others, and the long journey it’s taken me to come to the end of myself. Every time I think I’m at the end, it seems Jesus is there tugging me forward saying, “That was just a resting place. It’s not the end.” Have you been there?
What Do You Expect?
Unmet expectations are the source of all kinds of conflict, whether in marriages or friendships or the workplace. This is especially true when the expectations are unrealistic. Much of the time, I believe they are.
- We expect others to meet our needs completely, when there is only One that can fulfill us (and it’s not your spouse or significant other).
- We have too high expectations of ourselves and get frustrated when we don’t meet those. (Come on, I’m not the only one am I?)
- We have expectations that others need to be where we are spiritually and if not try to get them there. (Is that really our job? Check out 1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
- We expect other people to behave like us, respond like us, and communicate like us. We forget that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made. We fulfill different roles in the body, and our uniqueness is from the Lord (Sometimes it feels like it’s from the devil, though, right?)
Often we feel that we have a right to lead people down the road to meet our expectations, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. I know from experience. I’ve felt that way before, and I shake my head when I remember some of those moments. (That was before my Phari-sectomy).
God Has a Process
Does God want us to come to the end of ourselves? Absolutely. Can He use my friend as a part of that process? I’m sure He will.
The danger, I believe, is when we try to take on that process ourselves. Very rarely does any good come from trying to short-circuit God’s timing. (Just take a look at Abraham, Joseph, and any number of Bible characters who tried).
When we try to usurp the activity of God in someone’s life, we reveal a lack of trust in God and His work and growth in that person. Yes, he can absolutely use us to be a part of that process. So what role do we play in that?
What is My Part?
According to 1 Corinthians 3, we plant and we water. We are not in charge of growth. That is God’s domain. What does planting and watering look like? There’s not a specific formula for each person, and I’m not trying to set forth principles to live by but ideas to embrace.
When someone doesn’t meet your expectations, forgive them. When you don’t meet your own, forgive yourself. Extend forgiveness frequently and generously.
ANOINT WITH GRACE AND MERCY
Be willing to shower people with God’s grace and mercy. Let go of unrealistic expectations and ask God to show you those when they occur.
Above all else, listen. Listen to Father for the gentle nudges that can help you walk alongside your brothers and sisters. Listen to your fellow believers as they share their struggles and what God is showing them. Help them navigate and nurture their relationships with Father and fellow believers.
May we be rich in mercy and slow in our criticism of those who love Jesus and may not be as far along as we are or as far as we think they ought to be. May we learn to see the beauty in our uniqueness and value our differences.
Do you struggle with imposing expectations on others? How do you respond when others place those on you?
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