Living With Unrealistic Expectations

I have a confession to make--I often set very unrealistic expectations.  The problem is that I don't just set them for myself; I set them for everyone around me too.  My poor husband knows the truth of this.  I am still convinced, after fifteen years of marriage, that I found my Prince Charming.  The trouble is that after a fifty-hour work week and very little sleep, the prince can lose some of his charm.  And when he loses his charm, I lose my cool.  How dare he not live up to my expectations to be sweet, caring, romantic and happy all the time?  The poor prince!

Sadly, I do the same thing with friends, family members and especially myself.  If you think I'm hard on Jason, you've not seen or heard anything yet.  You should hear the way I talk to myself.  You should hear the insults and accusations I throw my way.  It's depressing, to say the least.  Why, oh why, do I set standards that I can't possibly live up to?

And, of course, I also set unrealistic expectations about my circumstances.  Let's take my health, for an example.  On Monday, I decide that I need to do something about the pudge around my middle.  For a week straight, I watch for calorie intake, I exercise, I stretch, I take my vitamins.  I do all the right things, but unfortunately, I expect the wrong results.  Well, actually, I expect the right results, but I expect them too soon.   By Friday, I hop on the scale, eager to see the two to five pounds I've lost because of my week of sacrifice.  Would you believe that stupid scale has the audacity to show me a number higher than what it was on Monday?  The nerve!!!!  I'd been so good.  How could I possibly weigh more?

Or how about this one?  I've surrendered my life to Jesus.  I'm walking in His footsteps and fulfilling His plan for my life.  I seek His face daily, eager to maintain true communication with Him and desiring nothing more than to do His will.  Surely that means my walk through life will be a pleasant one devoid of detours and potholes, right?  If ever there were an unrealistic expectation, that would be it!  Where do we get the idea that the Christian life should be a bed of roses?  I know better.  I know that Jesus promised tribulation.  I know that He said we would suffer if we stayed true to Him.  Yet, somehow, for some reason, I expect something different. 

Four years ago, I walked away from a steady income to pursue a career in writing.  I knew it would be difficult and frightening, but I also knew, without a doubt (most of the time), that it was God's will.  Yet four years have passed, and I'm still struggling to sell just a few books each month.  Some days, God's great plan for my life doesn't seem so great.  It doesn't feel so great.  It seems pointless.  It feels discouraging.  I expected more.  I expected to succeed in a way that my income would match and eventually pass the income I was making as a teacher.  I didn't expect to become an overnight success, but I certainly expected to be much farther along than I am currently.  I expected God to honor my faithfulness and obedience by providing the income we need to get out of debt, put new tires on the vehicle, fix the leaky roof and do all the other things that need to be done.

This morning I had to ask myself a very sobering question:  "Am I giving God the cold shoulder because I feel He's let me down?  Am I angry with Him for not meeting my expectations?"  When others don't meet my expectations, I don't hesitate to let them know, either by my explosion of emotion or by my withdrawal of it.  Have I done the same with God?  I know I haven't exploded His way, but have I withdrawn?  Have I pulled away from His presence because I feel He's not taken care of me?  It sounds foolish, I know, but we often do foolish things.  Deep down in my heart, I know that God has been very, very good to me.  I know that He has always provided in His way and in His time.  I know that He is working things out for my best.  Unfortunately, what I know and what I feel don't always mesh, and emotions are hard to argue with.

I hesitated to write this post today because I have no conclusion.  I'm still sorting through my feelings and emotions, which for me resembles the episode I had a few days ago as I tried to untangle the Christmas lights.  There are knots to untie and seams to unravel, but as of yet, I don't know how to answer my question.  Still, I couldn't get away from the urging to write this post.  Who knows--maybe you're feeling the same way?  Perhaps you're struggling with the same feelings of disappointment over a situation that didn't turn out the way you had expected.  I don't know.  What I do know, however, is that unrealistic expectations are very dangerous.  They can do some serious damage in our relationships with others and even in our relationship with the Lord.  Not to mention, they make us downright crabby to be around.

The old Christmas carol says, "Tis the season to be jolly", right?  Well, unrealistic expectations make that nearly impossible.  Let's lighten up, shall we?