There is so much to do and so little time to do it. I’m frequently dropping the ball somewhere and disappointing someone. The sad fact is that I can’t always meet people’s expectations. I can’t even meet the expectations I have of myself.
Feeling like we are “not enough” to fulfill the expectations of ourselves and others is common. But left unchecked, these beliefs can lead to anxiety, depression, and perpetual feelings of failure. They are toxic thoughts that can steal our ability to enjoy our relationships, even our relationship with Jesus.
This topic is on my personal top 10 list of most frequent discussions I’ve had with my friend Jesus. Through prayerfully asking the question, “do I meet Your expectations?” I have become convinced that Jesus has placed no expectations on me. He doesn’t have them on you, either. He doesn’t have “expectings,” He has “knowings.”
Jesus knows us fully and completely in ways we don’t know ourselves. Jesus knows every hurt and heartache that has gone into making us think, feel, and do the things we do. He gets us because He has seen everything that’s happened to us. He has compassion when we think we are falling short and celebrates with us when we overcome a hurt, habit, or hang-up. He also knows what it feels like to know you are not living up to the expectations of others because He lived it.
In Matthew 11, we learn that, while in prison, John the Baptist sent a message to Jesus asking, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” I can feel the angst and doubt in John’s question, but I think his doubt came from his circumstances. He was sitting in prison hearing stories of Jesus. In Matthew 11, we learn that Jesus had a reputation for being “a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners ” (Matt 11:19).” Like the rest of Israel, John was expecting The Lord with a Sword. Jesus did not live up to John’s expectations. He didn’t live up to a lot of people’s expectations.
He wasn’t in enough of a hurry to suit His friends Martha and Mary or religious enough to please the Pharisees. He wasn’t angry enough at the Romans or Samaritans to satisfy His disciples or disapproving enough of sinners to placate John the Baptist. No one understood Him, and He didn’t fit in. In many ways, that makes Him just like us. He was “not enough” to meet anyone’s expectations until He exceeded their expectations by walking out of His tomb.
In the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus called people out on their false expectations and told them He wouldn’t dance to their tune (11:16-19). Then He introduced a tempo of His own when He said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life…Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you (Matt 11:28-29 MSG).”
There is nothing as heavy or ill-fitting as expectations. Especially religious expectations. Did I pray enough, read my Bible enough, etc. And while I can’t speak for how you manage unrealistic expectations of yourself and others, I can reassure you that Jesus is your friend and doesn’t have expectations. He has knowings. He knows you and loves you. He knows you are worn out from trying to be everything for everybody. Go to Him and recover your life. And tell everyone else that you are more than enough for your friend Jesus.