By Jennifer Antkowiak
A recent conversation with some of my friends revealed that most of them felt both busy and frustrated, because they never seemed to be able to get enough done.
I encouraged my friends to name some of things that they did accomplish in a typical day. The standard response was a long list that included things like, “Got up and dressed. Fed the dog. Made sure the kids were up for school. Made sure they had everything they needed for the day. Packed lunches for everyone. Went to work. Scheduled appointments or ran an errand during a lunch break. Stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work. Made dinner. Checked homework. Switched laundry. Went over the family and personal calendars. Gathered everything needed for the next day. Fell asleep reading or watching a show.”
Friends who are caregivers for sick or elderly family members added even more to their daily list.
Still, they felt unproductive and unfulfilled and unmotivated.
They were so deep in the heaviness of their routines that they couldn’t see or celebrate the many good things they were doing.
This was an issue of both unreasonable expectations and of focusing on projects instead of people. They were all wrapped up in the “what” instead of giving attention to the “who” and the “why.”
We tend to set high and unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and when we fall short, we feel like failures. We also tend to project expectations on those around us–our spouses, our children, our co-workers, and others. All too often, we don’t communicate these expectations. So, we’re holding people responsible for things we don’t tell them about, and then we get frustrated when they don’t deliver.
God can help us break these cycles. He makes it very clear that He has one expectation of us: to live as His disciple–to follow Him. Placing false expectations on ourselves and others, comparing ourselves to others, and over-committing ourselves — all of these distract us from our true mission.
If we truly believe that God has given us all that we need to carry out His plan for us, it makes absolutely no sense to compare ourselves to others. God has set each one of us up for success on the path to eternal life with Him by giving us everything we need on our journey as His disciple.
Keeping our attention on Him helps us realize that the only person we have to please is Him. How quickly could we pare down our daily routines if we looked at each activity and asked, “Does doing this thing help me to make Jesus the priority in my life?”
One reason that it’s so hard to let go of the distractions and the temptations is that we allow our identities to be defined by what we do instead of who we are—beloved children of God. He wants to work through us, in us, and with us, bringing us and those around us closer to Him. It is in that loving relationship with God and our neighbors that we find great joy.
When our identity is anchored in God, our daily tasks and events flow from that relationship. We’re able to feel a sense of accomplishment because we know that what we do has eternal value. Not only are we following His path, but He is walking with us. We realize that God knows us. He made us! He knows we’re not perfect and He loves us anyway. Feeling that divine love can help us manage the expectations we place on ourselves and others.
Let’s all pray for release from the pressures of false expectations.
Please help me to trust in your plan for me. Help me to release false expectations and stay focused on you. Allow me to feel the peace that comes from believing that You will make sure I have all that I need to fulfill Your purpose. Help me to project that peace to those around me, so that others may feel Your love through my presence.