—Erin Smith, CCC Member
Expectations are a funny thing, aren't they? Each of us carry them about—big, small, and (seemingly) mundane things in life. I have expectations about how my day is supposed to go. How my children ought behave. For my husband to not ever have to work late. For my kids to actually stay in their rooms during room time so I can catch a break. To see growth so I can move on and feel better about myself. Deep down, I expect life to be comfortable and easy.
But that is far from reality. This summer I've been faced with just how many expectations I have of myself and others. Often they are unspoken or unknown even to me, that is, until they are revealed by being threatened. My children disobey (even worse, they do so in front of other people whose opinions I care about!). The expectation of an easy, laid-back week of summer gets interrupted by a kid with a week-long virus. Expectations aren't always bad: it's O.K. to want some time to recharge and respectful, obedient kids. But I've noticed how quickly anger bubbles to the surface when expectations aren't met. My reaction to unmet expectations is the issue. Another way of saying that—when things don't go as planned my heart's idols are threatened. And...I...Don't...Like...It.
We went through the book of James in high school Sunday school last fall and I'll be leading students through it this year with Cru. The Lord grabbed my attention with this book! This passage in particular keeps coming to mind. "What causes quarrels and fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel." The unrest isn't because of my circumstances, though I wish I could blame those things. The problem is my heart's desires and conflicting passions.
In chapter 4, James goes on to remind us that when those passions are in conflict, we are invited to pray. We are instructed to come before God and be honest about our desires, expectations, and disappointments and to ask for help. We are told in v. 7 to submit to Him. What would it look like to submit unmet longings to my Father who cares for me? I can trust Him with those things and to meet me in those times.
In His great mercy, in James 4:6, on the heels of our hearts being exposed for how ugly they really are, we are told: "But he gives more grace." How amazing that even when my heart condemns me I can go to God, repent, and find grace. Grace that meets me in the hundredth time of anger. Grace that drives me to humility with my kids and husband. Grace that gives me hope that God can grow me to respond in a godly way next time.
What about you? What are expectations being divisive that you tend to hold too tightly onto? Where is anger apparent in your life (that was a helpful barometer for me)? What might it look like to submit those to the God of all precious grace?