Updated: Jan 17
It’s snowing here today, and I’m sitting in my favorite spot next to the window overlooking my backyard and watching it snow while I write. Snow days always get my creative juices flowing probably because I find it beautifully serene. I need a clear mind to write, and it’s relaxing to watch the snow fall.
Work has been hectic this week, and the phrase “expectation management” keeps rearing its ugly head. I despise that phrase, probably because I’m not good at managing my own expectations, much less anyone else’s. I tend to have a bit of a Wonder Woman complex, and if I don’t meet my own expectations for what I think I can or should accomplish I get frustrated.
My mom said something to me this morning that perfectly explains the difficulty some of us have with managing our expectations. She said people jump into things without planning or foresight. They don’t take the time to sit down and consider the pros and cons, the logistics, or the what ifs. Then, once they’re into whatever it is, and things start to go wrong, or it’s not as they hoped or imagined it would be; they either throw up their hands and quit or stubbornly refuse to admit they might have made a mistake. “They’re like the man Jesus said built his house on the sand,” she concluded.
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” Matthew 7:26,27.
The house is our life, and the rain, floods, and wind are the troubles, problems, and daily concerns we encounter. If we’ve built our life and made our plans on an insubstantial foundation, solely dependent on our own limited human abilities, our house won’t weather the storms of life, but if we’ve built our house around Jesus, a solid rock foundation, our house will be solid and will stand against the troubles that come (Matthew 7:24,25).
My own difficulty with expectation management stems from taking on too much. I try to accomplish way more in any given day than is possible. I think I should be able to work a full-time job, write a blog every week, keep a clean house, care for my family, maintain a workout regimen, run errands, and take care of all the various to-dos of everyday life. Then, I get frustrated when (surprise!) I can’t do it all.
I also tend to compare my life’s accomplishments with those of others – friends, colleagues, peers – and get discouraged when I think I don’t measure up. I’m sure part of that stems from my stage of life. I recently celebrated a birthday, and I’m at that point when we start to reassess our life choices. Being the high achiever that I am, I don’t give myself enough credit for what I have accomplished.
It’s so easy to use someone else as the metric by which we measure ourselves, and it’s even easier to point to the one or two who seem have achieved more and allow their achievements to overshadow ours in our own minds. What we need to remember is that God gave us all unique gifts, talents, abilities, and paths. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
Where we are in life may be the result of our own choices, and if we need to change our circumstances, God can help us if we ask and let Him. Where we are may also be the result of God’s leading. He may be using us in this time and place and circumstance to accomplish His purpose for and through us.
Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom right now who loves being home with her child but feels left behind by those who’ve chosen to continue working. Maybe you feel like something of an underachiever. I remember those days. It’s important to realize that what you’re doing in investing in your child, the next generation, is just as noble and important as working at an outside job, and despite what people or society may say, what you do is work, valuable work, and it’s God’s will for you right now.
Maybe you’re like me, in your middle years, with children almost grown or possibly already grown, and you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself in this next stage. Like me, you may have put your career on hold while your kids were young, and now you find yourself going back to work or school, and it’s taking time to get into your new routine and embrace your new identity. It’s difficult and you’re maybe wondering if it’s too late to start something new. You see your friends who maintained their careers, and they seem so far ahead of you. It can feel disheartening.
Remember, friend, no matter what you do, who your become, or what you achieve in this earthly life, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, you wear a crown in the spiritual realm. And not all great achievements are tied to our degrees or careers. Our spiritual purposes are much higher and more significant than those earthly measures of success.
If you stop and think about what you mean to other people and what you do best, you may discover that your achievements and successes have absolutely nothing to do with your education or job.
Your crowning glory may be a child well-raised, an elderly parent well cared-for, a spouse well loved. As I’ve gone through my own self-evaluation, I discovered that I am the listening ear, the shoulder, the advisor, the shelter. My loved ones come to me for care and comfort when they’re sick or tired, to pray and listen when they have a problem, and to go into battle when they need help.
Are you the one who always welcomes the new neighbor or the visitor at church? Are you the person who takes soup to the sick or starts the meal train for the new parents? Do you raise your hand, ready and willing to volunteer when something needs doing?
If you find yourself measuring your life’s journey against someone else’s, pray that God would show you your journey and milestones through His eyes. You might find that you’ve achieved much more than you dreamed or realized.
When I get down on myself for not “doing more in life,” I think of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Throughout the film, Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, is just itching to get out of his small town. He wants to travel, go to college, and become an architect. He wants to make his mark on the world, but circumstances keep working against him. He never leaves town and ends up taking over his father’s small building and loan.
I don’t want to ruin the movie for you if you’ve never seen it, so I’ll just say that something happens that causes George to fall into despair, and an angel is sent to him. To prove to him how much he really does matter; he’s shown what his town would be like him if he’d never been born. It’s a powerful illustration of the positive impact one person can have on those around him.
George Bailey’s seemingly small life was much bigger than he ever realized. In the final line George’s brother gives a toast to his big brother, “the richest man in town.” You are no doubt much more important and are leaving a bigger mark than you ever realized. Ask God to show you how you touch the lives of others.
Our heavenly Father, we often get caught up in the world’s measurements of success and achievement. Lord, we ask that when we start feeling as if we haven’t done enough or achieved enough that you would show us how You see us and how much we matter to You and to those who love us. Reveal to us the gifts You’ve given us and how we bless others with them, and if we need to start using our gifts, please show us how. Please show us how successful we are to You and how “rich” we are in the eyes of others. In Jesus Christ’s name – Amen.