April 8, 2014

Unrealistic Expectations (and where they come from)

The enemy's accusations have residual effects. Unless accusation is named for what it is and wrought powerless with truth, they wrap themselves like vines around every last thought and become a faux identity that we use to characterize ourselves. When accusation has had its full effect, the enemy no longer has to accuse but watch and goad, because we've taken over for him. We self-accuse.

I know this because all spring I've been untangling the vines of accusation that have subtly wrapped around my heart, my thoughts, and my identity. It's also why I asked you to consider your greatest insecurity: because accusation distorts our most sensitive parts and squeezes life and joy right out.

The Lord has helped me recognize that my greatest insecurity, fed by the enemy's accusation, is that I am a disappointment. In the past I have believed that I am a disappointment to God, but that accusation is currently being wrought powerless with the truth of who I am in Christ.
Most recently, however, I have believed that I am a disappointment to others, that once they really get to know me, they will find me deeply disappointing. This accusation still holds some power in my life and its effects, I've discovered, are most far-reaching in the area of ministry. Because of the nature of the work, it's difficult for me to know (and hold) the line between what God wants for me to do and what I assume others expect me to do. I often entertain the idea of attempting both, precisely because I don't want to be a disappointment to anyone.

As a result, the expectations I place on myself are burdensome and impossible:
Know everyone's name.
Have every church visitor over for dinner.
Be the perfect mother and the perfect pastor's wife on Sunday mornings.
Have an answer for every question.
Respond lovingly and gently every time. Absolutely no room for failure or an off day.
Say yes to every request or need.

These expectations are, of course, of my own making. No one handed me a pastor's wife job description, and no one is doing a job evaluation at the end of the year, and no one is holding these things over my head. They are the standards I've set for myself, and they are directly connected with my greatest insecurity and the enemy's accusation.

It's so frustrating that the enemy takes the things I love--hospitality, connecting people, counseling, and leading--and makes them burdensome and joyless. And I let him!

So the untangling has been happening, and it's a confusing process because my heart and mind have been set for so long on not being a disappointment to people. I find, however, that as I've asked the Lord to bring truth into the untangling process, He's not quick to lay out job descriptions with measurable standards attached. He's not accusatory. And there isn't disappointment at all. He's mainly just asking me to consider what I'm passionate about and what He's gifted me for, and He's releasing me to do those things and to enjoy those things.

Instead of the expectations I have for myself, He's drawn me to the one-anothers in Scripture.
Love one another.
Serve one another.
Forgive one another.
Submit to one another.

It's freeing to me that it doesn't say, "Love everyone" or "Serve everyone". It's on a more individual, relational scale, a scale I can handle.

So while I have a list of burdensome expectations for myself, God holds out a whole different perspective. A life-giving perspective. The question is: will I listen to accusation and go again to my list of expectations to prove I'm not a disappointment? Or will I believe first that I'm not a disappointment (because of Christ) and let that freedom inform how I love and serve?

Do you struggle with placing unrealistic expectations on yourself? How has God taught you how to respond?