Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lower The Bar

Photo image courtesy of evrenkalinbacak via 123rf.com
“What did I do to deserve this?
    Did I ever hit anyone who was calling for help?
Haven’t I wept for those who live a hard life,
    been heartsick over the lot of the poor?
But where did it get me?
    I expected good but evil showed up.
    I looked for light but darkness fell.
My stomach’s in a constant churning, never settles down.
    Each day confronts me with more suffering.
I walk under a black cloud. The sun is gone.
    I stand in the congregation and protest.
I howl with the jackals,
    I hoot with the owls.
I’m black-and-blue all over,
    burning up with fever.
My fiddle plays nothing but the blues;
    my mouth harp wails laments.”
~ Job 30:24-31, MSG (Emphasis mine) ~

Our "school year" of parent mentoring has come to a close.  It has been a remarkable time of sharing with mothers on all different spots of the parenting journey.  

One common thread that has seemed to surfaced throughout our various studies this year has been the issue of our personal EXPECTATIONS. It seems that many of the layers of heartache we parents endure flows from the death of our own expectations at every level.

First, we grieve the death of our own dreams of that perfect child we set out to parent.  It seems surreal when we find out that something is not quite "normal" or "typical" with our son or daughter.  Even if that child has come to us through adoption, knowingly diagnosed with a chronic illness or disability, we anticipate our love and faithful caregiving will improve our child's outlook.  Missing developmental milestones, falling behind peers, and being unable to participate in age appropriate activities add more stinging pain to our disappointment.

We also expect much out of those we are close to, like family and friends.  Perhaps too much.  We have set in our minds that those closest to us will be worried about our every concern.  They will include us without demanding anything in return.  They will instantly be sensitive in their use of language.  Holidays will be tailored to our child's diet and sensory issues.  And they will immediately swoop in to rescue us when we are at the end of our ropes or going through a crisis with our child.

Sound a little exaggerated?  Well, at the very least, we expect those closest to us to be concerned about us and loving towards us.  Sadly, those expectations are also frequently met with disappointment.

Our spouses are part of that mix.  We often demand either a rigorous compliance with the way we think things should be done, or we completely exclude the spouse, anticipating that they will never do things to our standard.  We ask for help from our spouse, but then we are critical of that help.  We would rather blame than do the hard work of making our marriage partnership work.

The list goes on.  We expect educators and medical professionals to work with us as a team at all times.  We expect them to behave professionally and to treat us with respect.  We don't come into these situations anticipating that we will be talked down to, demeaned, or treated as if we are hopelessly ignorant.  We don't want to be in a combative or defensive position every time we face doctors or teachers.

Yet, some of the greatest emotional wrestling we do is with adjusting our expectations of God.  Just as Job is quoted in today's Bible passage, we often feel like God owes us better than what He has granted us.  If we are faithful to Him, He ought to be giving us a healthy child and a carefree life.  At the very least, He should be easing up on us.  After all, Jesus calls us "friends."  Don't we treat our friends better than this?

And herein lays the crux of our faulty thinking.

Joy is found when we lower the bar of our expectations.  The way I personally achieve this goal is to walk myself back to the days when I was not a parent raising a child with a chronic illness or special need.  If I am honest with myself, I wasn't necessarily sensitive or supportive before I walked this walk.  Would I want mercy towards my former self?  Absolutely!  So how can I not offer that to others?

I have had to take a deep breath, step back, and ask myself if these lofty expectations I have are really reasonable.  This requires me to mentally put myself in the shoes of my spouse, my child, our doctors, the principal, and extended family members.  That's not always fun or easy, but it is what Christ calls me to do.  It's hard work.  It requires more self-denial when I want to hoard a scrap for myself.  Yet, in putting forth the effort Jesus prescribes, I gain the most.

As for my expectations of God, I have to hang my head in shame when I consider all He has already given me.  He did not even withhold the life of His one and only Son from me.  Jesus suffered unthinkable difficulty, rejection, pain, and humiliation on my behalf.  How then do I act as if that is not enough for me?  What else could He possibly owe me?

The photo image used with today's post  was a great visual for me.  Look at how we must contort ourselves if we ever hope to get over the high bar we set.  What relief we offer to ourselves and those around us when we lower the bar, readjusting the lofty expectations we may be clinging to!

"For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him."
~ Romans 12:3, AMP ~

Friends, when we find ourselves feeling crushed by life's disappointments, go ahead and grieve.  But once we move through the grief, we must begin to realize that lowering the bar for certain expectations just might be our ticket to healing, joy, and freedom.

PRAY:  LORD, you see our pain as parents.  Our lives are a series of disappointed expectations.  Help us work through our grief, forgive those who have disappointed us, and readjust our expectations.  Thank You for being the One and Only who can exceed anything we can ask, think, or imagine.

~ Barb Dittrich

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