Summary: Part 6 in series Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God Through Our Closest Relationships On Earth. Dave looks at the problems caused in relationships (with humans and with God) by the expectations we bring to them.
Part 6 in series
Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God Through Our Closest Relationships On Earth
Wildwind Community Church
March 14, 2009
We’re in part 6 tonight of our series Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God Through Our Closest Relationships On Earth. Tonight I want to talk to you about role expectations. Role expectations. I’m a little nervous about this sermon, because I know that none of you have any expectations of your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, or whatever, right? Actually, it’s just the opposite, isn’t it? It’s not that we don’t have any expectations, it’s that we often have so many expectations that we start tripping over them. We think our spouses ought to be this way, and our bosses ought to be that way, and our churches and small groups ought to be this way, and our boyfriends and girlfriends ought to be that way, and our kids ought to be this way, and the neighbors kids ought to be that way. We think he’s too much this way, and she’s too much that way, and he’s not enough this way and she’s still way too much that way!
Expectations in a relationship are what I like to call the “silent killer.” You know, there are those diseases called “silent killers.” They’re the ones without symptoms. At least there often aren’t any symptoms until it’s too late. You read magazine article about them and try to make yourself aware of what they are, and you try to get screened for them, or at least eat properly to avoid them or whatever. Expectations are kind of like that! Your expectations for people often exist outside of your conscious awareness. In other words, a lot of times you don’t realize what your expectations are until when? Until somebody fails to meet them. And when somebody fails to meet your expectations, what do you do? Do you kind of academically observe, “Hmmm…my expectations have just been violated.” No, you get angry, right?! Or you feel hurt! In fact you feel downright ripped off. Why? Because expectations operate in our minds as “shoulds.” If I have expectations of you, that means that I have a mental list of things you should do, things you should say, things you should and should not care about, things you should and should not be willing to do for me, or whatever. That’s what an expectation is – it’s an unconscious (not like knocked out, but like something you are not aware of) set of shoulds.
Ladies, let’s name some expectations most women have of men.
Excellent, men, what are some expectations you have of women?
I want to think about this “should” thing for a minute. Should is a powerful word. When you have expectations of a person, it’s not that you think it would be nice if they did this or that. It’s that you think they SHOULD. That means they OUGHT to. That means that in your mind they have some kind of DUTY to act in the way you think they SHOULD act. Now let’s face it – that’s a pretty strong burden to lay on somebody, isn’t it? I mean for real.
So let me flip this around. As we talk about how expectations can be a pretty heavy burden, have you ever felt yourself crushed under the weight of somebody else’s expectations for you? Remember what that felt like? Some of you are in relationships where you feel like every single day you are failing to meet the expectations of the other person. Day after day after day after day. How’s that feel for you? Or maybe you’re the one with the expectations that are never met. How does that feel for you? I mean, what is the result of having expectations that go chronically unmet day after week after month after year? What’s the result? Heartburn? Frustration? Anger? Resentment? Bitterness? Seething disappointment?
Are you seeing where I’m going with this? Expectations can really cause problems! Expectations can cause problems whether you’re the one whose expectations are not met, or whether you are the one who has disappointed someone by failing to meet their expectations of you. And they’re tricky, because they are so unseen and so unexamined. We often don’t even discover them until someone lets us down and even then we get angry but often fail to realize the expectations that are behind our sense of being let down. But can you imagine what would happen in your closest relationships if you could learn to lift and relax and sometimes suspend your expectations?
I have some expectations of my kids, but none of my expectations for them involve them meeting any of my needs. Sometimes they’ll say stuff like, “Dad, I’m sorry you have to deal with this or that,” which is very sweet. But I will often respond, “Thank you for your compassion – but please understand that you do not have to carry my burdens. (at least not until I’m old – then “please help me!”) I don’t expect them to meet my needs. But Christy – Christy has the joy of living life under the burden of my expectations. That’s not always easy. And I’m developing this vision lately for me and for her – what if I could suspend my expectations of her? What if I could let go of them and just sit back and watch her journey with God with joy, the way I watch my girls? What if it wasn’t about her meeting my needs and doing this or that, or her needing to be a certain way, but just about enjoying the gift of her warmth and friendship? My friends, part of what’s getting in the way of your closest relationships being able to thrive may be your expectations of other people.