I learned something last night. I am taking a self-help class on a book called Safe People. A profound book on relationships that’s backed by Scripture. We discussed relational peeves in our group. I shared two experiences.
Shortly after my son’s death, I really struggled. A friend offered to go to lunch with me once a week. Maybe it’s an abusive childhood throwback, but I’ve always had a hard time letting people minister to me. I feel undeserving. I don’t know how to respond when people do nice things for me, and never want to infringe on someone’s super-tight schedule.
“That’s very sweet, but I don’t want you to feel obligated. You’re already extremely busy.” I said. She did not respond. The subject was somehow changed.
I thought about my response later and it really bugged me. I didn’t want to sound rude and insensitive to my friend’s kindness.
I should have called her but texted her instead, saying I was very sorry if I offended her. And that I didn’t want to place another burden on her, but thought her suggestion was very sweet.
By the third day of no response to my text, the whole thing was eating me up. I finally called her and asked if she had gotten my text.
“Oh, yes, I got it. Don’t worry about it. It’s really no big deal.” We chatted for a while but I still couldn’t help but feel a bit miffed over my ignored heartfelt apology.
After months of not seeing or hearing from a friend I wrote a line in the Christmas card I sent her, “Haven’t seen you in forever. Let’s have lunch in the New Year.” I knew she had taken on an enormous project and knew her project had been completed. I received a Christmas card from her that made no mention of my suggestion for lunch or even something like, “Lunch will have to wait. I will be tied up for a while.” Because her card came several days after my card went out, I figured her card was in response to mine. There was no response at all about the lunch.
I felt devalued both of those times, and that it was a matter of common courtesy to respond to someone in these situations.
“Well, that’s what happens when you have expectations Elizabeth. Expectations will always get you in trouble.” The Safe People leader said.
I was surprised by her answer. It took me a while to really digest it. Was looking for a response from someone I had known several years and shared a lot of myself with, merely an expectation?
It was true that I expected more courtesy.
Was it an entitlement? I did feel entitled to get the courtesy of a response.
I guess it was about expectations and entitlement to an extent.
If that’s the case, aren’t we like that with God also? We assume we are entitled to God answering our prayers.
- We feel God owes us because we have been really good or have prayed a lot.
- We had another similar prayer answered, so God should cookie-cut this answer as well.
- We feel God should answer our prayers the way we want them answered because as His kids we deserve it.
- We claim scripture, and demand that God should follow through with promises that suit our needs.
Sometimes our needs are highly legitimate.
Here’s an example: I just spent nearly a week with a sciatica nerve that was pinched which gave me a semi-permanent Charlie horse. You know how annoying those are when they last a few minutes, imagine a week.
As long as I was not sitting or lying down, the Charlie horse would get stronger and stronger until I thought I ‘d go insane. Yesterday I went to Kohl’s during dinner time, hoping for few shoppers. I needed to return some items. The walk from the parking lot to the customer service counter was tough, but standing in line was tougher. The cashier chit-chatted with the customer she assisted while the cramping down my leg brutally raged in the form of lightning bolts.
I kept shifting my weight from one leg to the other for sanity, and became more agitated with each second. I considered leaving with my items unreturned.
I repeatedly asked God to please ease the cramping to no avail. I feared I would have a meltdown if I didn’t get out of there soon.
God did not remove the cramping, but mercifully another clerk arrived and helped the man in front of me. I felt a ray of hope.
I had been full of expectations. I expected to be able to get in and out of that store quickly. I expected the person behind the counter to consider the people standing in line. I expected the cramping to be relieved because I prayed all week for it to be relieved. However, none of my expectations were met.
Today, the cramping is finally a little better. Thank you, Jesus.
At desperate times of prayer, I think of Matthew 7:8-10 and I quote it back to God.
“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?”
And I say, “God, this cramping is torturous. Please, please, please remove it,” expecting him to remove it because I begged. God does not operate that way.
But then I remember someone else begging God for relief. Luke 22:42
Saying, “Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
That was precious Jesus asking. God’s own beloved, INNOCENT son. But God did not remove the cup from which Jesus had to drink. God had a greater purpose for that cup.
I don’t know if there’s a purpose, what purpose He has for my brutalizing Charlie horse, or for all the unbearable migraines and back aches I get, or for child abuse, or injustice, or terrorism, or human trafficking, or starving children in Africa and India. In comparison, a month of Charlie horses wouldn’t even begin to equate to the brutal suffering in this world.
We also need to remember that we live in a deeply troubled and dysfunctional world with an enemy “who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8); so not everything is necessarily God’s purpose.
I am reminded that God does not owe us. We owe Him. Nevertheless, He gracefully continues to love us.
God is on His time frame and operates in His own way. We may not always understand or like it. But if I am going to trust Him with my eternity, I must trust Him with the bad things in my life today.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “ Isaiah 55:8-9
And yes, if you’re wondering, I did see a chiropractor, three times during the cramping.
So I guess my friend, the group leader, was right to an extent. When we have many expectations we are usually headed for disappointment.
I couldn’t help but think of how expectations ruin relationships. There is truly a relief, a liberty in few expectations. By releasing ourselves from expecting, we remove a heavy burden from those around us. What do you think?
By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2014 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com.