No, I’m not referring to the Dickens novel by that name, though it’s one of my all-time favorite books. I’m referring to something we all do every single day that we often may not even realize.
I just got back from a weekend retreat for Christian moms. My own mom helps run it, and I’ve gone along to help serve every year, but this year was special–my first time visiting as a wife and a mom myself. (My baby is still inside me, yes, but I’m already its mom!) One of the best reminders I heard there was that expectations are chains that bind us. One catchphrase they used when applying this to marriage, was the admonition to “let your husband out of the cage of your expectations.”
We put expectations on others all the time without realizing it. We expect them to act a certain way, say certain things, feel certain emotions. For some of us, myself included, we put expectations on others that are really not quite reasonable, and then feel disappointed and let down when they aren’t met.
Until I got home, I hadn’t ever realized how much I do this to my own husband.
But I also hadn’t realized how much I do it to myself.
I’ve been very overwhelmed with all the things I have to do lately, but in the past few days I’ve often stopped and asked myself, “Why am I doing these things?” And when I get down to it, the list of things I actually have to do is relatively small. The rest are things I want to do, or more likely things I think I have to do. But so many things I put on myself aren’t even real commitments. They’re just things I expect that I ought to be able to do, and I therefore think that I must.
And let me tell you, these things add up and weigh me down very, very quickly.
I remember when I was in my early twenties, I was sharing with my dad that certain things I did left me disappointed. He asked what my expectations were. I told him I didn’t have any. His answer? “If you are feeling disappointed, then you have expectations.”
Without these internal demands on ourselves and others, there is no reason for us to feel disappointment! But so often our expectations are completely subconscious. We don’t set off to put all these things on ourselves, but we do it, day in and day out.
So let me ask you–what expectations might be weighing you down?
I expect to do a certain number of audiobooks, to publish a certain number of books per year, to do multiple side jobs, make lunch for my husband in the morning, keep the house clean, make dinner every night, work at my church twice a week, make time consistently for friends, spend time in prayer and Bible reading every day, journal, read prolifically, eat well, exercise, blog and post on Patreon and social media regularly, keep up with all my long distance friends consistently, and rest enough to make sure not to wear myself out and to take care of my baby when my body tells me rest is needed.
No wonder I’m overwhelmed.
I need to sit down and see what things are actually necessary in my life. Take everything else off the table. Then I need to put back the things that I’m passionate about, that I love doing–my writing, audiobooks, blogging, and set realistic goals for those things that won’t stress me out. Other things? The opportunities I feel like I can’t miss out on, the people I feel I have to do favors for, the things that sound fun but that really just don’t fit into my schedule?
It’s time to let them go.
My husband and my baby don’t need me to be a worn out, stressed out woman who doesn’t love her life. And that’s not what God wants for me, either. It’s time to let go of expectations, learn to say no, and enjoy the time that God has given me.
So tell me–what expectations is He asking you to let go of today?