Why do I keep expecting people to act a certain way?

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You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, …. Isaiah 58:9 NASB

Christmas Eve and we were returning home from having shared a lovely Louisiana gumbo supper with some friends after the service.  In our warm and cozy truck, I mentioned to Mike that the previous night our bedroom has been too hot to sleep well. I suggested, “How about we just turn off the heat in the house, so the bedroom will be nice and cold?”  He nixed that idea, countering with, “just open the window a crack.” Annoyed because I didn’t think that alone would be enough to cool down the room, I said to myself, “He ‘should’ know how important sleep is to me!”

There it was, an expectation that I had projected on Mike. Only, I didn’t realize that was what I had done.  But God’s perceptive eye didn’t miss it.

As the Holy Spirit would have it, our readings for Christmas Day included Isaiah 58 about the kind of fast the Lord wants his children to celebrate.  The prophet puts it bluntly: we should not fast religiously or selfishly, simply to check it off our list, but enter into a fast with a heart set on worshipping our creator, sustainer and holy God.

As I worked through the first part of verse 9, I felt comforted by God’s promise to respond promptly to my cries for help with a “I’m here!”.

But then my eyes moved on to that ‘yoke business’ mentioned toward the end of that same verse.  I wrote in my journal, “Father, have I placed a yoke on anyone?  Am I expecting others to act a certain way?”

Last night’s conversation quickly came to mind. I DO have and I HAVE formulated expectations of Mike and other family members, and friends, as well. Do these precious people FEEL my dissatisfaction when they don’t ‘meet my standards’?

Yikes! That unarticulated but very real pressure must feel burdensome, especially on those who live with me, like Mike.  Others might feel the sting of my occasional disappointment, but Mike surely notices the ‘yoke of expectation’ that I hang on him.

We fragile human beings can never satisfy the impossibly high criteria OTHERS use to evaluate us.  I should know NOT to engage in that practice, since I have suffered the pain (and shame) of family members’, friends’ and bosses’ pointed dissatisfaction with me.

What is the solution?

Well, I can’t control what others think of me, but God has given me Holy Spirit power to change my thinking.  He commands Christians to renovate their minds, their way of thinking and concluding through a a changing heart, one saturated by his word. And what Jesus commands, he makes possible.

Since Christmas Day, I keep reading scripture that reenforces this message. We are to hope in God, not people. ‘Hope’ can be translated in both Hebrew and Greek as ‘to expect or wait for someone to act’.

Psalm 118:8 NKJV says: It is better to trust in the LORD, than to put confidence in man.

Even Jesus didn’t trust people, because he knew them: But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, because He knew all peopleJohn 2:24 NASB

John Piper, in a recent devotional reflected on 1 John 3:23: This is His commandment, that we believe [with personal faith and confident trust] in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and [that we unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, just as He commanded us. NASB

He distilled John’s teaching to something I am meditating on throughout the day:  Trust Jesus, Love people.

God is the only person in the universe who deserves our trust and won’t disappoint me.  Shouldn’t that fact free us up to release our unfair and unverbalized expectations of people that we hold in our hearts?

Are your expectations robbing you of joy?

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.” (Attributed to Francis of Assisi)

Mike read this quote out loud to us the other night. I couldn’t find any attribution to it on line, but no matter.  Whoever said it, I bless, for it gave me pause.

He and I talked a bit about what it would be like to live expecting nothing. For instance, upon awakening, the electricity to light and warm our house would be pure gift. Everything that worked and started up right away from the shower, to the coffee pot, to the phone to the car, all added blessings. Walking with no pain.  Arriving on time. Peace in our neighborhood. Mental clarity. Restful sleep. Fingers that work. Safety while worshipping. Harmony in relationships. Clean water. Glasses that enable me to see. Pain medication. The list of gifts extends.

Tuesday, Vera, my 9-year-old granddaughter and I were scheduled to connect by Zoom for a French lesson. But Graham texted about 5 minutes before our start time to say he was trying to get the internet back on.  I kept the Zoom room open, but 20 minutes later he sent an update.  “No internet possible today. Repairman will come out tomorrow.” So much for our French lesson.

When I shared what happened with Mike, he responded, “Wow, I am so glad this didn’t happen when were took care of the girls in October and I worked from their house!”

I realized how we had taken functioning internet for granted. Had this situation occurred while our son and his wife were away, Mike and I would have had to scramble to figure out what to do. Sure, he could have looked for a Starbucks that allowed customers to sit inside and use their internet. But their download and upload speeds are not necessarily fast.  Besides, Mike hosted several online collaborative meetings, totally inappropriate in public spaces.

Just that one brief reflection caused me to see how much we both take for granted. Just remove any one of those blessings, and watch how we respond.  Ah yes, the power of unmet expectations to poison our mood.


So, I ask, is it possible for us to arise each morning and receive the day ‘naked’, not counting on any created thing to ‘work’ or ‘respond’ a certain way?

Only one thing, one person is worthy of ‘counting on’ and that is our triune God.  We make a prideful assumption when we expect something to work, someone to treat us well and act like they always have.  Add to that the expectation of not meeting up with any roadblocks or obstacles each day.  That is no recipe for enjoying life.

Holy Spirit, keep me practicing this kind of reflection!

Freedom that comes with honest self-appraisal

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I heard the concept of hope described as the golden feeling

of having something to look forward to.

If you’re like me, you enjoy having something new in which to hope, to anticipate, to savor, or to find relief from pain or the mundane.  Something like an event, a trip, stuff or a transition.

We can also place our hope in people – – to meet our needs.  The kicker is when they don’t live up to our expectations, when they disappoint.

Among many intermittent friendships with other Christian women, I’ve enjoyed one long and sustained relationship. For over ten years, this gal and I met weekly for coffee and fellowship at Starbucks, until I moved away this past June.

Our weekly hour of spiritual and life catch-up covered both years when we read & discussed books together, to seasons of just plain keeping up with each other’s interests and needs.  Twice I betrayed her trust by divulging a confidence.  And our friendship endured and strengthened.

This was a new experience for me, to have a strong but elastic friendship that neither of us dismissed or dropped at the first encounter with unmet expectations.  It would have been easier to drift, to claim a season of ‘busyness’.  But we would have missed the blessings.

I am, by my fallen genetic make-up a prideful person.  I tend to think I’m pretty good.  Of course, once I became a Christian at age 23, God slowly but steadily took my blinders off so I could see more and more of the sin that had been there all along.

By the time I sinned against my friend the second time, I was ‘mature’ enough to confess to her something that went like this:

  • I could promise that I will never again break a confidence, but I know me.
  • And I don’t trust myself.  
  • I will probably, no..not probably, I will MOST assuredly sin against you again.
  • I don’t want to, but I also don’t want to delude either you or me. 

I hadn’t planned on announcing that fact; I think the Holy Spirit just opened my eyes to that truth at the moment.

You know, it is FREEING to acknowledge that my bent is STILL to sin.  What makes me different from the non-Christian, is that Jesus already paid for all my future sins.  And I am well loved by God.  His grace doesn’t give me license to sin, but it does remove my need to cover up my sins.

I revisited this lesson yesterday on the Appalachian Trail.  Mike and I had planned another Saturday hike. Normally these are physically and emotionally restorative.  This one turned out to be painfully and spiritually revelatory.

Three times over the course of the 5 hours (should have been only 4 – our normal limit at our age 56), we got side-tracked (aka – lost). Twice it was my fault –  due to my strong will, selfish desire to reach a spot on  the trail and my distrust of Mike’s Ranger training.

He sinned too and during the drive home, we processed.  After reconciling, I remarked:

Mike, as much as I am truly sorry for hurting you today by not trusting you and not thinking about how your ankle must have been hurting, I want you to know how thankful I am that we have a covenant marriage that is both strong and elastic enough to survive our deliberate sins against each other.  Most assuredly I will hurt you again and you will wound me.  We’re sinners. May we continue to offer one another grace and ready forgiveness.

Now that is liberating. Mike’s hope is NOT in a perfect partner and neither is mine.  That releases us  to overlook much and chalk it up to God’s sanctification process.

Mike’s face clearly illustrates God’s gritty, sandpapery sanctification process in the midst of our hike yesterday.

But what I see in it …..is the face of my beloved husband, a fellow sinner, committed to me and to God.  May God give us BOTH the strength and the desire to love well with plenty of grace when we don’t feel like it.

Pers - Mike at AT sign

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