Unrealistic expectations…

My husband and I do some pre-marital counseling at the church, and we like to do one whole session on unrealistic expectations in marriage. I know I had them when we got married. I think I still may have one or two lying around. For instance, for the whole first month of our marriage, I got up early and cooked Mikel breakfast. I mean eggs and bacon, biscuits, and sometimes even hashbrowns…the whole 9 yards. I thought that’s what a “good wife” did. After about a month of it, he kindly told me, “Ummm, I don’t really like to eat breakfast!” He never said he wanted a hot breakfast every day, and I never asked. So I went to all that trouble and took all that time and put all that pressure on myself based on an unrealistic expectation of what a good wife was. Sometimes we set expectations for ourselves when it comes to God no one could ever live up to….

My husband and I do some pre-marital counseling at the church, and we like to do one whole session on unrealistic expectations in marriage. I know I had them when we got married. I think I still may have one or two lying around.

For instance, for the whole first month of our marriage, I got up early and cooked Mikel breakfast. I mean eggs and bacon, biscuits, and sometimes even hashbrowns…the whole 9 yards. I thought that’s what a “good wife” did. After about a month of it, he kindly told me, “Ummm, I don’t really like to eat breakfast!”

breakfast

He never said he wanted a hot breakfast every day, and I never asked. I didn’t even really like doing it. So I went to all that trouble and took all that time and put all that pressure on myself based on an unrealistic expectation of what a good wife was.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:1-3)

God and Eve had two very different expectations of what she could and could not do with the fruit. God said not to eat it. Eve set her expectations just a bit higher and said, “If we even touch it, we will die.” That’s not exactly what God said. And what happened?

She had to touch it before she could eat it, right? I don’t think she grabbed it off the tree with her mouth as she was taking a bite. She probably looked at it for a while and then took the fruit and found that when she touched it she didn’t die. Her expectation wasn’t right, so she may have reasoned with herself that if she could touch it and not die like she thought….maybe she was wrong about eating it too, and she took a bite. And died.

Unrealistic expectations can set us up for failure.

I think sometimes we do the same thing when it comes to God. We set our expectations of what He wants from us SOOOO high that no one could ever reach it. And we don’t really base them on the Word. We base them on what we think He would want. When we can’t live up to them, we throw up our hands and get discouraged. We set ourselves up for failure.

It’s kind of like when we start a diet. We set super high standards: I’m never eating dessert again. I’m going to work out an hour a day every day. And the first time we eat a cookie, we give up. “Guess I’ll never stick to a diet.”

Only we say things like: I’m getting up at 3:00 every morning to read my Bible for an hour and pray for an hour and meditate for an hour. I’m always going to be patient and kind with everyone I see. And then when we get irritable or sleep in and sleep right past our 3 hour quiet time, we count ourselves a failure and get discouraged.

God does have standards set in his Word that He wants us to abide by. There are things we can do that please Him and things we can do that grieve Him. And we do need to find out what those are and live by them. But we need to relax our expectations just a bit. He doesn’t just want actions that line up with some rule….He wants our hearts.

He doesn’t just want us to spend time with Him because we HAVE to do this work. He wants our heart captivated with Him all day long. He doesn’t want a robot. He wants someone He can have relationship with. And it’s just easier when we are motivated by love than by pressure.

This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of this subject. Paul talked about it in Colossians 2. Jesus told the Pharisees over and over that they were basing their actions on man’s tradition and not the Word and setting people up for failure. The list goes on and on. But what I want us to be encouraged with today is this:

God does not expect perfection from us….and we can’t either. He knows we’re going to mess up. But when we do, we need to run to Him instead of away from Him, and He will give us His sweet forgiveness and strengthen us to keep going just a little bit longer. And instead of setting ourselves up for failure, we will walk in a deeper relationship with Him….and that’s the whole goal.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)

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