Rules & Expectations
Did you grow up in a family that was filled with rules and regulations? Do the rules that didn’t make any sense when you were younger make a little more sense now? Maybe some of them were put in place because an older sibling made mistakes your parents were hoping you would avoid? Sometimes it’s easy to see the reasons behind some of those rules, and other times we cannot figure out the purpose even years later. Perhaps there were some that were passed down through the generations without anyone stopping to figure out why.
Often as we begin a new year, we make up new rules for ourselves that we hope will help accomplish our new resolutions. Sometimes those new rules are a little too much, even though they might sound like a good idea at the time. If we want to lose weight, we might tell ourselves that we are not allowed to eat sugar or no more dessert. When we all of a sudden cut something off completely our desires and habits seem even more difficult to control. Going from too much sugar to no sugar at all can be frustrating, and we end up sliding back into the old habits by February. So we give up. Rather than starting small and working our way up, we scold ourselves and say it’s too hard. With the majority of our New Year’s resolutions, we should start small and have a goal for the future. Have you ever tried to do fifty sit-ups when you haven’t done even one in years? Do you know what works better? Doing five or ten every day this week, working up to ten or fifteen next week, twenty or twenty-five the next, and so on. Before you know it, you will find out that you can do fifty sit-ups!
We can use this same idea with spending more time reading the Bible, praying, and listening. It is hard to expect thirty minutes of concentrated reading and prayer when we are starting at square one. If we start small, we will soon find ourselves wanting and needing more time. As our attitudes change to ones of gratitude and praise, we will find ourselves craving the time we spend with the God Who invites us to lay our burdens down, rather than taking more up. He doesn’t ask us to follow pages and pages of rules. The only thing God calls us to do is love. Love Him and love others. Any rules or laws we follow are a result of that love. For example, the first four commandments are followed when we love God, and the last six are followed when we love others. Perhaps we need to get rid of the weight of all the rules and expectations we have placed on our shoulders and leave it at our Savior’s feet. As Pastor Chad put it on Sunday, “Losing weight and gaining Christ.” Remember, Jesus knows exactly who you are, and He loves you and wants to hang out with you anyway!
Sometimes expectations our parents or family have placed on us weigh us down without us even realizing where the pressure is coming from. We can feel like we’re just not good enough or doing all the things we should be doing, and we can’t quite figure out why we feel that way. The more books I read about introverts and learn how to rethink my expectations of myself, the more I have realized the expectations of some extroverted people around me are not realistic for my introverted nature. It can help to get to know ourselves better and figure out the history behind some of the feelings we have. Then we can grow and become more Christ-like.
Are the expectations you have placed on yourself weighing on you? We need to take care not to focus on the things we did wrong each day and instead look for our progress in the little things. You can reach for the stars, but you still have to climb that ladder one rung at a time. When we focus on the grace God pours out on us through Jesus, we can be a little more gracious to ourselves, and, hopefully, abundantly gracious to the people around us.