“So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.’” Luke 7:22 (NIV)
My friend Amber had a difficult relationship with a relative. As she navigated the deep waters of improving that relationship, Amber had a realization in the form of a funny word picture.
“Sometimes my relative hands me a plate of trash,” Amber told me. “My whole life, I’ve accepted the plate she’s handed to me, as if I now actually own it, saying, ‘Of course I’ll take your trash. Thank you for this plate of trash!’”
Things have changed, though. Amber’s found a way to better manage the relationship when inappropriate emotional baggage, unreasonable demands on her schedule or extra duties are handed to her.
“Now, I lovingly hand the plate back,” Amber explained, “and I sweetly say, ‘Oh. You handed this to me, but it’s not mine. This is your trash to hold or throw away.’”
The picture Amber painted made me laugh, but it’s the perfect picture to help us as we deal with outside tasks, duties, attitudes and demands passed to us. It’s all a matter of evaluating expectations.
There’s no other person in history who’s had more expectations flung at Him than Jesus. But Jesus handled what others expected of Him with a firm grace.
One example was when John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, sent a question to Him through two of John’s disciples: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20b, NIV)
What a stunning question from the one who paved the way for Jesus and baptized Him in the Jordan River, with God the Father and the Spirit attending! Where in the world did John’s question come from?
Maybe John started looking for someone else because he was expecting something else.
Even so, Jesus didn’t react to unreasonable expectations the way I’ve reacted. He wasn’t angry and defensive, nor did He acquiesce, trying to fulfill someone else’s agenda.
Instead of Jesus shifting His calling, He helped John shift his expectations. Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Luke 7:22b).
Jesus was crystal clear about His calling — and immovable. He listed proof of His ministry to remind John of the goal. Then Jesus unapologetically called John to come into alignment: “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Luke 7:23, NIV).
Without detouring, pursuing John with promises of change, or creating a clever new plan, Jesus held His course.
“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Within His parting sentence, there’s a gentle rebuke and an engaging invitation to John. Jesus will not leave His path for John, but He beckons John to walk with Him. Ouch! And how sweet!
Just think. It might have made John happy for a moment for Jesus to act more “Messiah-ish,” but following John’s plans would have kept Jesus from fulfilling His mission, ultimately leaving John without a Savior.
Jesus didn’t accept every “plate” handed to Him. If the request matched His calling and directions the Father gave Him, then He accepted it. If the expectation didn’t fit, He rejected it, reminded people of His calling and continued doing what He was destined to do.
In our journey to become who God made us to be, we have to jettison all people-pleasing that supersedes our desire to please God. If I’m honest, the unbalanced desire to please others is what causes the crushing weight of inappropriate expectations.
Instead, we can live the way Jesus showed us, assessing expectations according to God’s mission for us.
Lord, show me what expectations are truly part of my mission, and help me to fulfill them joyfully. But strengthen me to gently reject inappropriate expectations. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Proverbs 4:26, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” (NIV)
If you long to move from running-on-empty to spent-and-content, Amy Carroll’s new book, Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well, co-authored with Cheri Gregory, has solutions to release you from the overwhelming pressure of being all things to all people. Preorder from our Proverbs 31 Ministries bookstore, and you’ll receive a free bonus.
Visit Amy’s blog today, where she’s celebrating the pre-birth waiting period of Exhale with a fun and fabulous giveaway!
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Ask yourself these three questions to help decide whether an expectation placed on you is appropriate or inappropriate:
- Does this fit with what God has called me to do?
- Will I have to discard some of the activities I’ve already assessed and committed to do?
- Will agreeing to this project set a precedent for more unsolicited assignments in the future?
Join the conversation! Share your thoughts about how you might feel to be released from inappropriate expectations.
© 2019 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.