It has been a long week, made that way by anxiety, stress, and a subsequent lack of restful sleep. These weeks come along to me regularly for some reason. I suppose (perhaps) because my brain isn’t wired to always handle everything that comes my way; I mean, I look at other people and they appear to be handling the same amount of ‘life’ in a more effective way. So I wonder, what’s up with me?
I spent a good deal of time this week pondering that exact question, and I think the answer (or at least an answer) has crept out from the back of all the chaos and said, “Hey…psssst…over here.” And this is what it had to say:
That’s all. Expectations.
Hmmm. So, I and the brave little messenger whispering about expectations sat together and looked at each other for a very long while. Let’s see… I stressed about my new work schedule because I didn’t expect it to ever change; about a close friend who never reaches out anymore because I expected she always would; about my MDiv classes because I don’t know what to expect from myself, other students, or my instructors.
Or maybe the real reason I stress about classes is because I expect straight A’s in a world that isn’t about grades, rather learning and growing, extending beyond expectations. What would my life look like without all those expectations?
“And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full” (Luke 6:34 NIV). I provide my services to my employer, my thoughts to friends, my classroom efforts to teachers, and I – albeit subliminally – have a set of expectations based on those actions. How much of my stress would be relieved if I simply reached out to that distant friend without any expectation of return (or type of return) simply because I love her? If I gave without the expectation of repayment, but out of love?
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14 NIV). Stress apparently happens – for me, anyway – when I begin expecting more than an action, a person, a choice, a life lives up to.
I find myself thinking that living without expectations sounds impossible, but maybe that’s just an easy out because, honestly, I haven’t really even tried. And, I certainly haven’t talked to God to get his thoughts on it. So… yeah… maybe I need to be more concerned with my own actions than those I expect out of others. Ow. That hit home.
Looking over my to-do list, I’ve set a new goal for today. I will whittle away at my class assignments in order to come closer to God and discern his influence on my actions and reactions to life, instead of simply completing work for the purpose of getting an A in return.
Well, okay. That feels less stressful already.
My dearest friend compiled a list of quotes to encourage me as I work on my Masters in Divinity. Today’s quote is,
“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.”
I would add encounters with the Holy Spirit to that as I felt my light reignited today not only by dearest friend, but also Dr. Amy Butler’s most recent blog post that I “stumbled” across this morning:
“Sometimes it’s not just exceptional creativity, deep and profound insight, or even all that much intelligence that gets you to the end of the race. Sometimes, it’s just tenacity.”