"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
September 6, 2017
This week I would like to write about expectations. We all have expectations regarding ourself, other people, and situations; both good and bad. Sometimes what we expect is unrealistic and can be burdensome, to either ourselves or others. Other times we set our expectations really low in order that we either always be right or are never disappointed. But when set with wisdom and godly insight, expectations can be a very good thing that sets boundaries and gives us something to work towards, hope for, and believe in.
Growing up, my parents had the very same expectations for all five of their daughters. There was a fourteen age difference between my oldest sister and me, with me being the youngest of the five girls, but Daddy and Mama had the very same expectations for each of us. They didn't change what they expected of us due to our birth order, our personality, our likes or dislikes, behavioral issues, or whatever it may be. We all had the same rules, were all treated exactly the same, and had the same guidelines and repercussions for disobedience. But on the other hand, our parents were also always consistent in their example to us, how they raised and taught us, being involved in church and praying with us at home, and how they lived their lives. They didn't have expectations for their daughters that they didn't live out themselves.
Their example has impacted my life in many ways. My dad's work ethic was that he always go above and beyond what was expected of him, so that no one ever had a reason to criticize his work or accuse him of trying to take advantage of them. He hauled rock for contractors for many years; the type of rock used to build fireplaces or was put on the exterior of houses. Janie and I went with him sometimes to help. He had a big flat-bed truck and a full load of rock covered the enter bed of the truck and was four layers high. We would count the layers and then start asking, "Are we almost finished?" Every single time Daddy's response would be, "I need to round it up in the middle." Why? Because he didn't want any of the contractors to think he was ripping them off by not delivering a full load, so would throw on extras in the middle of the load. He also had a criteria for which rocks were acceptable and which weren't. They had to be flat enough for the contractor to be able to use and Daddy liked to look for pretty rocks. If we threw on a rock that wasn't acceptable, Daddy would throw it off the truck and tell us why.
Recently, Janie and I were sewing quilts together and she mentioned something about some nap quilts she is planning on making to simplify them. My response was, "Yes, you could; but you won't. We have too much of Daddy's work ethics in us where we have to do our best and can't just let it go that something is 'good enough', when we know that we could do better or make it prettier." She agreed.
I remember the examples set before us from Mama always cooking for her family; and one of my favorite things to do is cook for family. I remember the spiritual examples that Daddy and Mama were of faithfully attending church and praying and desire to follow that pattern for myself. We were never asked IF we wanted to go to church, but it was always expected that we would attend as a family. We girls would never have even thought of asking if we could stay home, because we knew what our parents expectations were and knew that wasn't even an option. I remember the faithfulness and steadfastness that Mama had, even in the midst of her suffering. When she was too sick to sit up, she'd be lying on her bed with her Bible next to her. She would be crying out to God in the early mornings when she was in the bathroom taking care of her colostomy and the pain seemed unbearable. She never complained or was negative or bitter because of the cancer she battled for seven years. She always prayed and was unfailing in her commitment to God; she took time to talk to her family and be involved in our lives; she cooked and care for her family as much as she could for as long as she could. When she couldn't sleep at night due to the pain, Daddy would call her siblings and they'd get out of bed and come down in the middle of the night and pray for her until the pain lessened and she could sleep. Never once did I hear any of them complain about doing so, but they would tell Mama to always be sure and call anytime she needed them to come and pray. She never tried to hide her pain from us girls or her brothers and sisters or keep private her suffering; perhaps because our home was so little that would have been impossible to do and she was so incredibly close to her siblings; but she showed us that in the midst of suffering, God is the one whom you always turn to and was an example to her daughters in that respect. I'll never forget that!
No matter how well one of my sisters or I did or how another one may have struggled, our parents expectation of us was that we were to always do our best and obey. They didn't change the rules or changed their expectation due to one being more obedient than another, or one making better grades and excelling over another, or one being sassy and needing more discipline over another who liked to always please, or one having a temper while another was more easy-going. None of us were treated as the favored "golden child" and another feeling as if they were the "black sheep". None of us were labeled the "good" child and another the "bad" child. But Daddy and Mama had the very same expectations for all five of us girls and made absolutely no differences or exceptions.
A while back my sisters and I were talking about Mama. Each of us always felt like we were her favorite. She never said, "You're my favorite," but through her actions made each of us feel really special and as if we were greatly loved and cherished. We each felt as if she loved us most, which was a special gift that she had.
On the other hand, our Grandma Horton really did have favorites and made it very obvious. She had a favorite grandchild in each family and made a difference in how she treated them and what she would give them or do for them. She never said the words, "You're my favorite," but she showed who was her favorite through her treatment and how she talked about those grandchildren. We all knew that Linda was her favorite out of all of us girls; and she knew that as well.
Sometimes it's easy to think that God has favorites and loves some more than others. That's not true. He loves and cherishes us all equally, regardless of how good or obedient or how bad or messed up we may be. When we have a deep relationship with God and are living as we should, we will feel loved and as if we're His favorite. When we're living in disobedience and are under conviction, we'll feel as if He loves others more than He does us.
Daddy and Mama also made their expectations known to us spiritually. We always attended church together as a family. They never sent us to church without them, but always took us; and we knew that it was expected of us to attend and never questioned or asked if we could stay home. When I was growing up, at the end of each church service we always had a time of prayer at the altar and Mama and Daddy always participated. I remember as a little girl going down and kneeling beside Mama when she prayed. I remember seeing Daddy spending time in prayer; and seeing my older sisters all praying at the altar. That impacted me. My parents never expected anything of us that they themselves didn't do.
But our spiritual training wasn't left to the church or our Sunday School teachers or the pastor. Daddy and Mama knew that God had given them the responsibility to be our parents and that they were really the ones responsible for our spiritual teaching. Our prayer time as wasn't exclusive to meal time, but every night before going to bed we would all gather in the living room and pray together as a family. They never criticized the pastor or talked about people or problems that may have happened in the church in front of us kids. They talked to us about Jesus and made sure that we had an understanding of who He was and that we understood the importance of prayer and of committing our lives to God.
Parents often become skewed in who is responsible for training their kids. Too often they want the schools to be responsible for book learning and the church to be responsible for spiritual training. Perhaps they are so busy working and with socialization and making sure that their kids are involved in extra-curricular activities that they don't feel that they have time to spend training their kids in these areas, or perhaps think it's not their responsibility. Then they don't understand why the kids struggle academically and grow up not having a sense of family or a true understanding of spiritual things. The bottom line is, when God blesses parents with children, He also has an expectation of them being the ones who will be responsible for the upbringing and training and care of those children.
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Parents have a responsibility to train up their child. They also have a responsibility to establish boundaries and expectations for their children, and being consistent. If they make a rule, stick to it and don't keep changing it. But they also have a responsibility to set the same expectations for each child and not change it from one to another. That's not fair to the children, and either sets up unfair expectations for one that is burdensome, or makes another think that they are seen as a failure and not as much is expected of them. Spiritual training should never be an option, allowing the kids decide if they want to go to church or choose if they want to hear about Jesus. Perhaps the most important training a parent can give their child. Don't be embarrassed or lax in talking to your kids or grandkids about Jesus and what salvation is. Talk to them about the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Show them why prayer is of great importance in each situation.
When a parent consistently tells one child above the others, "You're my good child! Out of all my children I need at least one that is well-behaved, and you are it", that puts a burden on them that is really not fair and can make them feel as if they were to make a mistake and mess up or do something bad, then they are letting their parents down and disappointing them. They then really don't grow up with a true understanding of what grace and mercy really is; they don't understand forgiveness; and they really don't understand that love is consistent, even when they do something wrong or make a bad choice or make a mistake. Love is compassionate and should urge us to always do our best; but know that if we fail, we can get up again and keep going and that love won't be muddied or lessened, but will still be strong and unchanging. It relieves the burden off that child that they are always expected to be perfect and always do what's right and be responsible and make the smart choices and never do wrong. That's a cumbersome burden for a child to bear! A child should never feel as if the love that their parent has for them is based on how good and perfect they are or how they excel.
It can also skew how they view God. If they are led to believe that the parents expectation of them is based on how good they are, then they will often tend to believe that same thing about God: He loves them based on how good they are. If they fail or make a mistake or sin, then they are greatly disappointing Him and may never get back into His good graces; that He won't see them the same ever again or will think less of them if they do something wrong. Perhaps that burden of always trying to be good and always doing the right thing and never giving themselves room for error will cause them to give up trying, because they feel like it's too difficult and they can never be good enough or are unable to fully please God and they are afraid of failure. The truth is, our relationship with God is never based on our good works and how perfect we are! It's based on the blood of Jesus and His forgiveness and grace and mercy. When we make it about our goodness, we miss out on why Jesus came and died for our sins, and miss out on what salvation and redemption is all about. We never truly understand grace and mercy.
On the other hand, when the other kids hear a parent tell a sibling, "You're my good child," or "I need at least one of my children to be well-behaved and you are the one," it lessens the expectations of what they feel the parents have for them. They often tend to rebel or make bad choices or disobey or not excel in school or have disruptive behavior, because they know that their parents expectations of them is not the same as it is for the "good" sibling(s). When they do those things, they feel as if they are behaving as their parents expect them to. Perhaps when they get the most attention from their parents is when they screw up. It's so important that parents have the very same expectations for all of their children and let each child know that.
God is the perfect example of what a parent should be like! His love for each of us is consistent and unchanging and isn't based on how good or perfect we are. He disciplines us when needed, in order to correct us and teach us how to live responsibly and to protect us. He reaches down and picks us up when we fall down; whether it be us tripping and falling on accident or us throwing ourselves on the ground in a fit of frustration or anger. He is our biggest source of encouragement and is constantly cheering for us and inspiring us to become stronger and grow and mature and do our best. When our heart is broken, God is there to hold us in His arms and give us comfort and support. When we are exhausted and feel like we can't take another step, He lets us lie down in green pastures and restores our soul. When we are fighting the enemy and are in the heat of the battle, He gives us the authority to resist the devil so that he has to flee from us. He sends His angels to surround and protect us. He never ever leaves us and is always watching over us. When we sin and then confess that sin to Him, God forgives and forgets. He shows us great mercy and grace; in fact His mercies are new every morning.
God's expectations for me is the same as it is for you. No one is His "good" child or "golden" child, while others are viewed as the "black sheep" or "good for nothing" or "the one with little potential" or "hopeless".
God's expectation for all mankind is that we all repent, that none should perish but all have eternal life. His expectation for us all is that we forgive, just as He has forgiven us. He expects us to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind; while loving our neighbor as we love ourself. He expects us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. He expects us to obey the ten commandments. He expects us to grow and mature in our relationship with Him. God expects us to show mercy, just as we have been shown mercy from Him. He expects us to share the good news of the gospel to everyone so that they too can repent and experience that blessed hope. His expectation of all of us is the same from one person to another.
God doesn't hide or conceal what is expected of us. It's not a mystery or secret, and we never know if we are obeying or what He wants of us. He has given us His Word to read so that we can get to know Him better and read what His expectations are. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live within us to guide us and teach us and help us. Through prayer, God will speak to our heart and show us how to live and what to do. He wants us to live up to His expectations! What He asks is not too hard or impossible or too burdensome. He lets us mature into His plan, while loving us and teaching us and helping us and correcting us and encouraging each step of our journey. Even more than a parent wants what's best for their child and wants to see them succeed and do well, God desires that for us. His plan is never to see us fail or mess up or see how difficult He can make life for us. But He has given each of us a future and a hope and His expectation is to see us achieve that and be successful! His expectation and greatest hope is that we will choose to spend eternity with Him!!
God does intend for each of us to live according to His laws and His instructions. But He also knows that we are each different, just as kids are different. He knows, with perfect wisdom, whether and how each of us needs to be corrected and brought back into His plan each time we stray. That's a tough thing for parents to learn for each kid. But God has the wisdom that we don't have.
(This was my mom's recipe)
1/4 cup flour
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 quart tomatoes
2 pounds beef round steak
Mix flour, salt, and pepper together. Dredge meat in flour mixture. Brown in oil on both sides. Put in casserole dish. Top with onions, green peppers, and tomatoes. Bake at 325 for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, until tender. Goes well served over mashed potatoes.
Jon and I were able to go to my old family home place in Missouri on Labor Day, joining a couple of my sisters and their husbands, as well a a nephew and his two kids. Going back home is one of my very favorite places to go and brings up a lot of memories. On Monday as Jon and I were driving past the road that turned to where Daddy and June lived the entirety of their marriage, I suddenly began really missing him and told Jon that I really wish that Daddy were still here so we could go spend the day with him. I felt a need to talk to him once again. Later as my sisters and I were visiting, we realized that that day marked the 10th year anniversary of Daddy's death. I'm sure that is what sparked the feeling of loss and longing to see Daddy to talk with him again. What a great reunion we have to look forward to in Heaven some day, where there will never again be any separation or death or sorrow or sickness or pain or hardship...... I'm so thankful for that Blessed Hope that Jesus has promised to us!
Just because things aren't going the way you planned, doesn't mean they're not going the way they should.
You can trust God. He is for you! - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon