For a change of pace I thought I would ask my lovely wife, Rebecca, to share something on the blog. Being married to me already is not that easy but add on top of that the task of being a pastor's wife—Rebecca has her work cut out for her. Here she shares how she handles people's expectations and where she finds her identity. As someone who doesn't enjoy a lot of anonymity at church (and when not known by name, referred to as "Kyle's wife") I often face the temptation to take on the burden of my own and others' expectations of who I should be. The pressure and stress this can cause is not from God. Rather, it can lead to pharisaical mask-wearing that steals the joy of a raw and real relationship with God and other Christians.
When we are burdened by our own expectations it is because we are trying to achieve something in our own strength. To discern where our hearts lie in this area we need to ask ourselves continually, who am I trying to reflect? Am I trying to create an image rather than reflect His image?
This kind of thinking reveals a discontented heart in the way God made us. Not that we don't work hard to grow and be more like Christ, but the difference lies in the heart and mentality behind what we are trying to achieve. Are we trying to be perfect, philosophical, funny, or look hip, etc. for our glory? Or are we humbly accepting Christ's forgiveness for our failures and persevering in this life-long process called sanctification?
When we are focused on meeting the expectations of others a few things happen: One, we begin people-pleasing, pure and simple. Instead of living to please God we choose instead to make an idol of man. This does NOT mean we are not accountable to others or that we should not listen to godly counsel. But again, who are we trying to please?
This kind of mentality leads to surface relationships with the people around you. I have never met a person that longed for surface relationships. As people made in God's image we desire depth, not platitudes. And to do this requires showing people your heart, your hurt, and even (yes) your sin. We are not perfect. We cannot be perfect in this fallen world. Be we can be raw and real, allowing others to see the process of sanctification in our lives.
God's expectations for our lives, in comparison to all others, are really quite simple.
We are to follow Him.
This means loving Him, worshiping Him, and obeying Him. Living to promote an image that we have created or that we are trying to live up to in the eyes of others is sin. We have been made in His image, for His purposes, for His glory--quirks and all.
When we try to convince ourselves and our peers that we're always great, we never make mistakes, we don't have sorrows and difficult seasons in life, we essentially deny God the glory He is due. We forget that His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Paul, in fact, declares that he will boast all the more in his weaknesses, because it shows how great our God is, that He could redeem and use us sinful, weak people.
Oftentimes our expectations for our lives and others' expectations are not in line with God's priorities for our lives according to His Word. We become Perfect Peggy and Susie Smiles-a-lot in the company of others when in reality God would prefer humble, broken, and contrite hearts before Him, because until that day when we see Him face to face sin is a reality. But praise Jesus, we have a gracious Savior. It's because of Him we can be genuine and have real depth with our God and His people.
Don't hide. Don't feel as if you have to put on your good Christian mask as you stroll into church on a Sunday. God cares about our hearts.