April 25, 2011

Great Expectations

Hello! Welcome to Ministry Monday, a weekly post for ministry wives. If you're new here, glad you stopped by! You may want to start here. I invite you to subscribe, leave feedback in the comments, or suggest Ministry Monday topics by emailing me. Thanks!

Years ago, there was a woman--a ministry wife--that I admired. She didn't know who I was, but I knew who she was. And I watched her. I watched what she did that I liked, marveling at her knowledge and abilities. But sometimes I watched her and, inside, tsk tsked at what she did not do that I thought she should. How could she disappoint me so? After all, she was a ministry wife. Shouldn't she do, say, and be perfect?

Obviously, I was immature then, looking for this woman to do something for me and not once considering that my expectations might be a teensy bit unrealistic. Not to mention selfish and ungracious.

I now know these things about my former immature self because now I am the pastor's wife. People sometimes harbor or even voice the unrealistic expectations they have for me.

But mostly I harbor and voice them to myself.

Honestly, after 12 years in ministry, I thought I was done with worrying about what people expect from me. I also thought I had been released from holding this false standard of perfection for myself. But yesterday, Easter Sunday for pete's sake, those great expectations walloped me out of nowhere. I offended a friend, I said something dumb, I couldn't focus during the message, I had half conversations with people, I ran around frazzled at lunch, I was offended too easily over something silly, and just all around felt like a failure. And I couldn't let it go.

God said, "Grace, child! Remember, it's Easter. It's about Me and that I resurrected so that this very thing could be done with, once and for all."

But I couldn't stop fixating on my failures. And worrying about the pot roast.

My husband said, "It's probably PMS." And he's right because he has an app for that. (And he also said some really sweet, comforting things...just so you don't get the wrong idea about my husband!)

But darned if those great expectations didn't follow me around all through the day and into the night, infiltrating my dreams.

This morning, God drew me in with the first verse I read: "He is our refuge..." (Ps 46:1)

A deep sigh escaped as I inhaled a fresh breath of peace. A refuge: a retreat, a place to relax and unwind (and boy am I wound tight!), a place where I'm wanted and loved, a place where I don't have to be perfect.

There aren't many points or people of refuge in the life of a ministry wife. But there is One, an always and forever refuge. Where He sees our need, knows our heart, and offers us peace. Where the volume of the shrill human voices gets turned way down. He doesn't expect us to come to Him there as perfect pastor's wives, ready to serve. The God of the universe patiently and diligently and graciously serves us.

Reason number five trillion that spending time in the Word is essential. He turns off the faucet of negative, irrational, and sinful thoughts and replaces them with truth.

He reminds me not to resolve to try harder, but just to depend harder.

Now it's your turn. Tell us how you handle unrealistic expectations from others and unrealistic expectations that you place on yourself.