Would you be surprised to hear that my favorite moments from our lovely, cool mountain retreat were spent watching Cat trucks move dirt? Sounds crazy, huh? It might make more sense if I told you our eighteen-month-old grandson sat on my lap and intently watched three big yellow trucks do their work. The biggest truck would dump a load of dirt, then a smaller one scooped the dirt and brought it to the construction site. Henry sat with rapt attention as he waited for the loader truck to come back around the corner. Do you know how rare it is for a toddler to sit still? I considered it an honor that he chose my lap.
As I sat in the rustic wooden rocker and enjoyed the gorgeous the Blue Ridge Mountains, I thought about expectations. I relaxed and sat on that deck with Henry because I had one desire for our family time away—to be together and deepen relationships. I definitely feel a closer bond with Henry because of our truck- (“tuck!”) watching. The noisy construction work could’ve been seen as an interruption during our peaceful days, a cause for complaint, instead it was a highlight for little Henry and me.
It would’ve been easy to have high expectations, such as to hike our favorite trails and have family devotions, but I knew all my ideas weren’t realistic. It turned out that our family vacation was wonderful in every way.
It isn’t lost on me that expectations also affect our relationships in the body of believers and in our community of neighbors and friends.
It occurred to me that angling for our own way is a kind of lust; an intense longing for what we want. If my expectations involve others they can become demanding and selfish.
A memory from many years ago came to mind. I’d decided to host a large group of single ladies, many who’d been divorced, for a Valentines Dinner. It was to be held at our home and would require lots of hands so I assembled a group of women to implement my vision. It was a success; the guests felt generously loved and encouraged. But there was one thing about it I later regretted: my perfectionism and selfishness. Because I had a very specific vision, I nixed a dessert recipe one of the women wanted to make. Of course I tried to do it nicely and it may not sound like a big deal, but in my heart I wanted to control the details. Since it was at my house, they kindly gave in to me. It may not sound like a large enough issue to mention, but it’s big to me if I recall it after all these years. I learned that my ideas need to be submitted to the group and then I need to let go. Unity and love are so much more important than my expectations.
I wonder if we can learn to set goals but hold them loosely; not carving our expectations into stone? Goals and plans are, of course, essential if anything is to be accomplished. What if I’d set goals according to how I sense God has called me, then surrender my expectations to Him? What if I’d focus on continual obedience—walking in His Spirit— and find joy in the moment rather than waiting for a specific outcome? I wonder how we can create a framework for great things to happen without setting ourselves up for disappointment?
Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and serve your neighbors’ interests first.Philippians 2:3-4
Paul goes on to show how Christ is our example. He poured himself out as a servant and was obedient to death.
For the whole law comes down to this one instruction, Love your neighbor as yourself.Galatians 5:14
Our families are our closest neighbors.
Walk in the Spirit and let the Spirit bring order to your life. If you do, you will never give in to your selfish and sinful cravings. For everything the flesh desires goes against the Spirit and everything the Spirit desires goes against the flesh. There is a constant battle raging between them that prevents you from doing the good you want to do. But when you are led by the Spirit you are no longer subject to the law.Galatians 5:16-18
I find the balance between goal-setting and expectations to be a bit tricky. My husband and I are attempting to be better goal-setters for our travel and hospitality. At the same time, as the years whir past, I have a deeper desire to set aside the things I hope for and expect in exchange for God’s sovereign plan. I guess it’s a matter of holding desires loosely.
The reality of God’s presence is not dependent on any place but only dependent upon the determination to set the Lord always before us.Oswald Chambers
Setting the Lord always before me is my highest goal.