It’s been a long week and a busy weekend. Sunday afternoon comes and you just want to lie on the couch, read, chat with your husband, watch a movie, etc. You know….unplug. After all, Sunday is a day of rest, right? Just such a Sunday came about last weekend. After church, we had a late lunch and I got everything cleaned up and was enjoying lounging on the couch by 5 pm. I have only recently embraced this idea of actual rest on Sunday. I think I even posted my joy over the matter on Facebook that evening. Only, less than an hour into my lounging….to my unpleasant surprise….. my son remembered a project was due the next day. Livid. I was livid. Did I mention I was livid? It was partially because I have repeatedly warned them about putting things off to the last minute; partially at myself because the project was assigned 2 weeks ago and though I check assignments for the week every Monday, I didn’t remember this project; and a little more than partially over the fact that my plans for a lovely, unplugged Sunday evening just vanished into thin air.
At the root of it all......Great expectations. That’s one of the things I’ve been convicted of lately. As a matter of fact, I shared with my husband not long ago how I’ve now realized that when I get crabby or huffy, especially over the weekend when I should really be happy and at my best, it’s normally because things didn’t go the way I had pictured them in my head. Thoughts I had for how the weekend was going to play out and the reality of it don’t match up at all and I’m disappointed. What I’ve come to realize is that I place an awful lot of expectations on other people. Who knew my husband and 12 year old boys wouldn’t be mind readers? Do they live in their own world or what? Well, yes, they do. But, my point is, what do I expect?? They’re boys! Even the one who is turning 45 this month! They don’t think like I do. So, when I was telling my husband about this, it was in the form of an apology for my foul mood over things that he had no clue about. Now, what I realize is that it’s something that happens all the time, not just when I have certain plans in my head for the weekend, but over expectations not being met.
We expect a lot out of people, don’t we? Even kids. We expect people to know what we want and we expect them to DO what we want. When they don’t……heaven help them. Now, I’m not saying we walk around in a rage all the time or whining all the time, either. But, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us, me included, allow that to happen all too often. We also allow a lot of our mood and overall sense of happiness to be affected by things that are simply out of our control. Namely….other people. It’s not that children and husbands shouldn’t know and do what is expected, it’s just that….well, they’re human. Not everyone can be as perfect as we are, right?
Hah! Lightning may strike.
It’s true everywhere we go, with everyone we interact with….. on any level. Every person we interact with is human. Why should we even have to remind ourselves of that obvious fact? Because….we have expectations. We expect the checker at the counter to always keep a happy face regardless of the day she’s had; We expect co-workers to go the extra mile; We expect our boss to see and appreciate how hard we work; We expect others to know what’s important to us and, at times, deem those things more important than whatever they have going on;( Speaking the truth here?) We go out of our way to help others, but we expect that somewhere that favor will be returned. When it’s not…..we secretly vow to remember their failures the next time they need us; We expect our pastor and fellow church members to behave and respond in a good, Christian manner that’s worthy of our faithfulness; and we certainly expect our own husband and children to know what is expected of them and well….do it! Well, la-di-da.
There’s a simple little word that has somehow become lost on me. Grace.The Greek word used in the New Testament is charis. Strong’s gives the definition of charis to mean:
“Manner or act: Whether abstract or concrete, literal or figurative, spiritual; Especially the divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life.” (Ouch!)
It goes on to say, “Grace indicates favor on the part of the giver, thanks on the part of the receiver; Although charis is related to sins and is the attribute of God that they evoke, God’s eleos (compassion) – the free gift for the forgiveness of sins, is related to the misery that sin brings. God’s tender sense of our misery displays itself in his efforts to lessen and entirely remove it – efforts that are hindered and defeated only by man’s continued perverseness. Grace removes guilt. Mercy removes misery.”
I thought good ole Webster’s definition of grace was well worthy of sharing, too:
1. Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. (A virtue coming from God.)
2. Approval, favor; Mercy/pardon; a special favor; act of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; reprieve.
(Side note - I was glad to find that Webster’s listed the biblical definition of grace first!)
This Sunday, our pastor spoke on Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love…serve one another.” He was talking about how our freedom we so cherish in this country to just go and do what we want, when we want, regardless of others…. isn’t really freedom. Because, when we pursue things with our freedom that aren’t godly, we say, “well….there’s grace….I’m forgiven…..so, I’m free to do as I choose.” He went on to say that when we do this, we usually find that thing doesn’t provide the happiness we thought it would because in the end, it takes us further away from God and we feel still unfulfilled. It’s a vicious, enslaving cycle. He also pointed out that if we ourselves aren’t enslaved to this “freedom” of ours, we often still enslave others with our expectations of them and then they aren’t free. It’s miserable….for everyone! His overall point was that Christ is the only real freedom. Being able to love other people with an unmerited love and serve them without expecting to receive favors, esteem, or anything else from them….is freedom like no other. We can experience this freedom and release others from the bars we’ve placed around them with our expectations……because we ourselves have received complete and unmerited grace. And as he said, “If you find that over and over again, you have a very hard time extending grace to others…..you may need to ask yourself if you’ve really received it yourself at all.” (Ouchy-wow-wow – I didn’t need that big toe anyway, Pastor Shawn.)
Note, though, this miserable cycle he describes and take a minute to re-read and compare it to Strong’s definition and further explanation of the Greek, charis.
God knows the misery that accompanies sin as it pushes us further and further from him and from the person he created us to be. So, out of His compassion, He offers a reprieve to the most grievous of sinners that are humble enough to ask His pardon. When you have come to a place where you realize your own depravity and imperfection and receive the grace that lifts that heavy, miserable load off of your shoulders......you should be willing to lighten the loads of others…..or at least stop adding to their load with your expectations of perfection.
Apparently, I have been out of practice myself. Example: Monday night after batting practice, we were eating supper. I was looking at Peter with an irritated look because lately he has forgotten his table manners and I have to keep repeating myself. I hate repeating myself and I expect my 12 yr. old son to remember his manners without being told repeatedly. Anyway, Peter said, “Why are you always looking at me like that??” I said, “I’m looking at you like this right now because you have regressed in your table manners and I’m having to repeat myself every night. But, I don’t always look at you like this!” Peter said, “Yes you do… you were looking at me like that tonight in the batting cages.”
The thing about it was, I was watching him….but…..I had my sunglasses on. He had no idea how I was looking at him or if I was even looking directly at him. He just thought if I was looking his direction, it was with a critical eye. He didn’t say it and may not even be able to pinpoint it, but I did. Apparently, he feels like bars of expectation are around him all the time. It’s not our intent, but that’s what our expectant selves do to people. I’ve been aware lately that constantly telling the boys how they can do things better is really being critical. Sure, there are times when we can’t let things go and they need correction. But, critiquing every word and every action is just putting up a bar of expectation they’ll never reach and placing bars around them that make them feel enslaved. Now, I’m a mom…..sometimes that means being seen as a “meany”, and I’m ok with that. But, I can see where there are plenty of times I am lacking on the whole “grace” thing and I am NOT ok with that.
Kids need to know what is expected and certain expectation should be put forth. It's bad parenting and a failure on our parts not to do so. I expect my son to keep up with his homework assignments. I expect my other son to listen to me and not make me repeat myself. But, thankfully, my Heavenly Father has been patient with me when I was far from meeting the expectations His Word sets forth. 2 things He asks of us: 1) To turn from our old ways and seek to live lives that place loving Him above anything or anyone else and 2) To love each other….. through the good and bad. He’s had to repeat Himself to me on more than one occasion and readily dished out grace at the slightest of bit of obedience on my part.
Am I making any sense here? Because I am that grateful leper, so thankful and completely aware of the misery from which I was saved and the greatness of the grace given me, I must be aware and intentional with the grace I offer to those around me and be more realistic with my great expectations. Anyone who claims to have received the grace of Christ should feel free to extend grace....whether to our spouse, our children, our co-worker, our friend, or the check out person at the grocery. If I want other to see Jesus in me, they must see grace.
Unmerited Grace Upon Grace: John 1:10-14; 16- 18
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.