Expectation: a strong belief that something will happen and that someone will or should achieve something.
When you hear that word, “expectation”, what is your first thought? To be honest, my most recent parenting challenges, lack of margin, and current health struggles caused me to experience the reality of this definition head-on.
After spending three weeks immobile due to an injury in my neck, I found my thought-life circling the drain, and that all too familiar lie — that I wasn’t enough — on the forefront of my mind.
You see, I am a do-er, and love to organize, activate, control, and produce results. It’s what I do and I rarely stop. So imagine my discontentment when I was forced to slow down, ask for help, and just be (aka: I searched for verses to banish discontentment while battling the question, Is 5 hours of Netflix ever acceptable??).
The first two days of being alone, quiet, and only caring for myself felt like a vacation (albeit a very painful one), but still, much appreciated. I started to journal about the power of the sabbath, then began to clear my calendar and let go of household management so I could focus on just being still.
Then day 3 came.
Tensions in my household started to rise. My kids, who were just over being at home with a sick mom, were constantly fighting; the laundry piled up; the pantry and refrigerator sat mostly empty; and a steady stream of texts and voicemails went unanswered.
As I laid on the couch staring at the ceiling fan, more lies and darkness started to peek in: If only I could be well … then I could be playing with my kids or cleaning up. If only I had more money … then I could have more help and keep up. If only, If only …
“If only you would trust me, then I could show you that your expectations of yourself are the root cause of your discontentment.”
Daughter, I am not impressed when you meet your expectations and my love doesn’t change for you when you DON’T meet them. My love for you is uninhibited, unconditional. It is not me who sets you up to fail by giving you unattainable goals or unreasonable expectations, rather I call you to be still, thankful, and open for me to invade the darkness on your behalf, reconciling all thoughts by cleansing you with my words.
I wept and pulled up the bible app and opened it to Philippians 4. As I devoured the chapter, verses 11-13 stopped me in my tracks.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)
God doesn’t delight in the expectations we put on ourselves or demand us to meet certain ones that would allow us to be closer to him. Instead, his love compels us to surrender our control (or our margin, finances, and the many outcomes we pray for) so our feelings will NOT become the indicators of God’s love for us. Rather, our situations become about God — not ourselves — and he asks us to be expectant of him.
Put simply, we are enough because he lives within us, not because of what we do, but because he first loved us.
So next time you find yourself saying, If only … pause and gently say to yourself: If I trust him, then he will… Because he will ALWAYS show up and meet you exactly where you are and provide an outcome in HIS perfect way … with no expectations attached.
Esther “Annie” Rhoades is a mom to three, wild and free kids and has been happily married to her best friend, Jon, for over 10 years. Annie values experiences over things and loves yoga with worship music, diving into the word, hosting, thrifting, making healthy goodies, and traveling.