We long for at least a happy ending.
We want Uncle Bill to be sober this year.
We want Mom and Aunt Sue to stop their ridiculous competing.
We want to have both Mom and Dad with us, calling a one-day truce in their war against each other.
We want David to stop yelling at his wife and children.
We want Tom to stop his incessant bragging just for this one day!
We want reconciliation and one big happy family sitting around the table.
Deep in our hearts we know these things aren't humanly possible, but oh, how we long for them!
One of the most freeing things I have learned over the years, in my expectations of others and their behavior patterns, either toward me or toward another is this:
People can't give what they don't have to give!
We can not expect them to give what they don't have!
It takes grace to be gracious!
For years, I had this dream of what a perfect relationship with my mother would look like. I wanted her to be and fit the picture of what I thought a mother should be. After years of having my expectations dashed time and again, the Lord said to me, "Donna, she can't give you what she doesn't have to give. You can't expect her to give you what she can't give."
She could only be who she was and she could only give what she had to give.
The Lord showed me I was the one with the grace; I was the one with the Holy Spirit leading and guiding me, so I was the one called to give the grace and release her from my unrealistic expectations.
We can not expect grace from people who have not received and experienced grace.
And that goes for Christians and non-Christians alike.
A Christian can be walking with the Lord, but still have not appropriated the grace for a particular situation or relationship.
Our expectations need to be in the Lord, not in people.
In our expectations of others, we need to constantly remind ourselves - they can't give what they don't have to give.
In our expectations of ourselves, we need to realize that - we can't give what we don't have to give either.
Our expectations need to change.
They need to be realistic.
They need to be centered in God.
They need to be in a God who can turn the impossible into the possible.
But we also need to understand, that until man is first reconciled to God, reconciliation to one another is temporary at best.
Our God's heart beats for reconciliation.
That was the whole purpose of the cross.
To reconcile us to the Father.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us. so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 NIV
Until that reconciliation happens in a heart, they only have and can only give what their limited human capacity enables them to give.
I can't expect an unconditional love from someone who has never experienced the love of God.
I can't expect the grace of forgiveness from someone who has never experienced the forgiveness of God.
I can't expect grace and mercy from someone who has never experienced the true grace and mercy from the one who is grace and mercy.
I can't expect peace from someone who does not know the Prince of Peace.
When we release someone from our unrealistic expectations, we are releasing them to a God who desires much more for them than we ever could.
We release them to a God who can be trusted with their hearts - to will and to do in them according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13) - just as He did with ours.
But we also release ourselves - to be able to put our expectations only in God.
Only in the One who can be trusted.
Only in the One who knows and sees all.
Only in the One who knows the end from the beginning.
And when we release our expectations to God, then we can begin to truly love, because we are not expecting anything in return.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer and told she had only 3 months to live, I was the one to take her to all her doctor's appointments, treatments, etc. As I waited with her one particular cold February morning, I marveled at God's goodness in the midst of it all. Because I had already allowed God to deal with my heart and all my expectations of her as my mother, I was free to just love her through this and not expect anything from her. I didn't feel the need to push her to say "I love you." I didn't feel the need to push her to talk through all our difficulties as I was growing up. I could just love her and try to make her last days as comfortable as possible for her. And I was free to share the Father's heart and love for her. What a blessing that was!