God’s Expectations

Phil and our first-born

” I could never live up to his expectations.”

How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful.

The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs,  just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.

Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure.

We parents and grandparents must guard our speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding our children. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. Thankfully, my parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling.

My younger brother can fix anything. He was this way as a young child. Whenever he visits, he fixes something. (Oh, about our coo-coo clock…when are you coming to visit?)

My parents expressed pleasure when I won the bubble-blowing contest, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theater, things my brothers did not do.

I do not remember a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences seemed important in our family. My brothers may see it differently than I do, being the only girl, I always felt valued for who I was.

What a gift!

Phil and I tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –

Psalm 62:5   “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children.

We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations.  The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours.

I find this verse, Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version, so encouraging –

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“

Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren!

Yet this verse states the fact that what God, our Father, has planned for them is better than anything I can even think or dream!

So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.

My Failure or I’m a BIG Hypocrite

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“So, what did you think about that?”

I listened for a moment, and then proceeded to criticize my husband’s response.

Busted!

I proceeded to explain to him that he was being CRITICAL.

REALLY?

I also went further (inserting both feet in my mouth) to tell him that his response was HYPOCRITICAL.

Everything I accused him of I was doing myself.

Shame washed over me – but the damage was done.

I couldn’t take back my words or the feelings they invoked. The thought went through my mind that I have been on my journey as a Christian for over 50 years, yet I am still failing to love the person who means the most to me, my husband.

I can blog all day about respectful relationships with my children and grandchildren – yet it is all meaningless if I don’t live it out myself in my primary relationship – with my husband.

The mission statement of this blog is “Reflecting the Image of God in Our Relationships”.

That means ALL relationships. Not just the ones I blog about, or the ones other people see.

Yet that is the beauty of our journey as Christians. God is taking us from wherever we are to the destination of being conformed to the likeness of His son, Jesus. As a journey, there are wrong turns, detours, even wrecks. We still press on. Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We will receive that prize if we stay on the journey.

So – I ask forgiveness, get off the path of criticism and judgment, and press on – “straining toward what is ahead.”

My friend Alice Marie and I were talking about the pictures we post on Facebook. She mentioned that they give a snapshot – but an incomplete view of our lives. We post the “events” – the parties, get togethers, the cute poses – and these are so much fun to see. They are certainly true – but not the whole story. We should celebrate and share the special times – always remembering that they are just part of the picture.

We don’t post the fights, crying fits, or major messes of our lives. Nor should we. These would often be disrespectful of those involved.

Alice Marie made me think about the photos I post and the things I write about.

I want to tell the truth, give the complete picture and at the same time, celebrate the beauty and wonder of our journey as Christians. God loves us so much that He shows us our failures and gives us the grace to admit them, ask forgiveness, and get back on the right path.

So, I will PRESS ON, thankful that Phil walks in forgiveness with me.

I sure need it.

REALLY!

The Speck and the Log

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“So, do you want the fall colored set or the summer colored set?” I asked as two of our daughters allowed me to shop with them. We were looking at dish towels.

I say “allowed” me because truth be told, NONE of our four children like to shop with me. They say I look at everything in the store – even things I don’t want. I like to look.

Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone who does like to shop with me. Carol says I take too long, Alice Marie says I ask her what she thinks about something, and then after she offers her opinion, I ignor it.

I guess I wouldn’t want to shop with me either.

So, back to our daughters – I was asking them to pick out new dish towels because after staying in each of their homes recently, I noticed that their dish towels looked stained and dirty. Let me be clear – the towels were CLEAN! Yet we all know that after a while, the old dish towel is past the point of looking clean. They look like Chicago Bears uniforms when they play at home after a freeze – muddy and dirty! This is the point at which the old dish towel should begin it’s new life as a rag.

Neither daughter seemed to think that their towels were alll that bad. I assured them that oh, yes, they were and so reluctantly they each picked out a new set. Mission accomplished.

Two days later I was cleaning up in my own kitchen. I opened the towel drawer to get out a fresh, clean dish towel to hang over the freshly cleaned sink. The first one I chose was awful! How did this rag get into my towel drawer?

The next towel I chose to hang was no better! In fact, there was not one clean looking dish towel in my kitchen.

I had to smile as I remembered the urgency with which I talked my daughters into the necessity of clean looking dish towels. Yet, I had not noticed my own towels’ pitiful state.

How true this is of many areas of our lives. We are quick to notice the “dirty towels” in others lives, when ours’ may be just as bad or worse.

Jesus addressed this very issue in Luke 6:41-43 (NLT)

41 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Could it be that the very thing we feel needs to be changed in our daughter-in-law (son-in-law) (neighbor) (co-worker) (fellow church worker) is an issue that we ourselves have trouble with?

How blind we can be to our own “issues!”

Next time I feel the need to “clean up” someone else’s towels – I best check my own first.

Beware!

      Doesn’t their mother bathe them?

No Fighting!!!!

                  “The worst thing you can ever think is “that will never happen to me” because then your guard is down and you are vulnerable to attack.”

I remember reading those words years ago in a book by J. Allan Petersen called the Myth of the Greener Grass. It was a short, but powerful message on the all too common issue of marital infidelity among clergy. Over the years I have observed the truth of these words, not just in Christian marriages, but with children of Christian parents as well. If  we find ourselves judging other parents and the way they manage their children, we can fall into a nasty trap.

“I would NEVER let my child do that!” “I can’t believe they let their children watch that on TV!” “They let their kids run wild, don’t they have any control over their kids?” “My children always tell me the truth, those children lie to get out of trouble.” and the ALL TIME WORST – “My child will never do that!”

If we are honest, we have all had thoughts similar to these, probably many times over. Yet we DON’T know all that is going on in the families of those we judge. Some parents allow their children to do certain things we find objectionable because their child is learning to overcome obstacles we can’t imagine. As a teacher I have seen some of my students face issues in their home life that are so horrific – it amazes me they make it to school at all, much less function productively. It is so very important that we recognize that each family is distinctive and each family faces circumstances that are unique.

There certainly are universal qualities that are generally considered desirable in families. Phil and I have facilitated parenting sessions for parents of adolescents over the years and Phil begins by asking parents “What do you hope for your children?” It is always good to begin a task with the goal in mind. The old saying – “You can’t steer a parked car” is true. If you don’t know where you want to end up – you won’t know when you get there. As a parent, if I don’t have a clear view of what I want my family to be like – I will not be actively leading my children in the right direction.

Back to the list from parents – we found that parents often knew what they didn’t want, but weren’t as clear about what they felt was important. If parents only work at avoiding certain behaviors, they will not be building character in their children’s lives. “Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!” may send my child the message that it is not respectful to talk a certain way. Yet will that statement teach my child the respectful response? No. Only focusing on negative behaviors will not produce positive results. After considering what was most important to them, the parents in the sessions formed a pretty consistent list of positive qualities they hoped for their children.

  • honest
  • helpful and thoughtful (positive spin on “not selfish”)
  • happy, content
  • well-adjusted, friendly
  • self-supporting (generally added by dads)
  • successful – which most parents realized resulted from the above mentioned qualities.

There are no “perfect” families because families are made up of imperfect people. Yet we can certainly plan and “steer” toward making our families places that nurture the qualities we hope for our children. We must guard against a judgemental attitude that only reflects the negative and does not foster positive development.

I Corinthians 10: 11-13  NLT

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

The challenge for each of us as parents is to be intentional about training our children in positive, Godly ways, and avoid the trap of judging other parents. God is Faithful!!!