Expectation. Webster defines it like this: 1) the act or state of looking forward or anticipating, 2) something expected; a thing looked forward to.
Expectation is a hefty word because with it comes ideals we have planted in our minds and in our hearts. Our expectations can be harmful, too, because – let’s be honest – when does life go exactly as we expect?
We have expectations that our churches will meet our spiritual needs provide connection and good teaching and worship just-the-way-we-like-it.
We have expectations in our neighborhoods that “if I mow my lawn and trim my bushes… you will, too.”
We have expectations that friends won’t betray or hurt us.
And we most certainly have expectations in our marriages.
The difficult part of having expectations is that we ASSUME that those about whom we have expectations know what they are expected to do. Right? We anticipate that a person will meet our needs in the exact ways we need them to be met.
So as a married couple, Ryan and I both battle with unrealistic expectations in our marriage… a lot. When we were married 13 ½ years ago we were told how important communication is within a marriage. We smiled, we nodded and we thought to ourselves, “Duh, we’ve got that one down. We both love to talk and there will be ZERO problems in the communication department.”
What we DIDN’T know was that we had unrealistic expectations of one another.
For example, we expected (assumed!) that we would satisfy one another’s emotional needs. I “need” him to compliment me and affirm me to make me feel worthwhile in my role as a wife and mom. He “needs” me to affirm him in his job and ministry. BUT in all reality, we are most content in our marriage when our deepest needs are met in Jesus, and we are walking right with our Father.
The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock (Psalm 27:4-5).
As parents, we also battle with expectations. I find myself thinking that my oldest child should ALWAYS know better and set the perfect example for her siblings. I find myself wrestling with potentially unrealistic expectations of my kids when I get frustrated at my youngest son’s occasional tantrum, thinking he should be more mature and well-behaved forgetting that his older sisters had their fair share of tantrums at three years old, too. I expect them to be tired at 8 PM, still tired and sound asleep until 7:30 AM, perfectly polite and well-mannered at restaurants, and never whiny when they are tired or having a bad day.
Who am I kidding? Or… what am I expecting? It is more important for Ryan and I to consistently discipline and consistently love our kids, than for them to perfectly meet our unrealistic expectations of them. We will all fail and we will all fall short.
We need Jesus to make us whole. Our kids need Jesus to make them whole.
Author Paul Tripp has said it well:
Unrealistic expectations cause each of us to live more independently and self-sufficiently than we ever should. In reality, we’re all in need of daily rescuing, forgiving, and empowering grace. We need that grace because none of us is free from the presence and power of sin. This means that, moment by moment, we need to be rescued from us! We also need the grace of God so that we’ll be able to love the weak and failing people that we’re always in relationships with.
When you face the next unmet expectation, use it as a sober but honest reminder that we follow a God who offers us “grace upon grace.”