Tag Archives: expectations

Disillusioned by productivity

21 Jun

I have loved these past 2 weeks. I have had some relaxation time but I’ve also been very productive. And strangely, it is the productive part that makes me feel the best. I have gotten back into the habit of cooking actual dinners, which has been good. I even made banana bread one day! I cleaned the whole house, including the refrigerator and microwave. Travis and I (finally!) cleaned out the drain to my bathroom sink (it has been clogged since we moved in!!!) so my sink stays clean now – before, it had soap buildup again the first time you used it after cleaning it. I went grocery shopping, fixed a couple of necklaces that had been broken for about 6 months, gave Katy a bath, watered the lawn, got my hair cut, read a whole book and started another, went on a 9 and a 1o mile run, redid my nails, bought new bras and running clothes, and did laundry 3 times.

I love being productive!

I wish I could add “spent time with the Lord every morning” to that list – I’m getting there. I need to remind myself that productivity, in the end, amounts to nothing. I mean, let’s be honest. In just a few days, there will be dirty dishes and a pile of laundry to be washed. In a week, the house will need cleaning again and the refrigerator will be pathetically empty. In a month, my nails will be chipped and in 2 months, my hair will start getting split ends. All of these things are temporary. The feeling of accomplishment they bring is short and fleeting.

Productivity isn’t a bad thing – but for me, it can be dangerous. The feeling of being productive, of going to bed with the great feeling I get from crossing off most things on my to-do list, allows me to forget – just for a little bit – how helpless, incapable, and needy I really am. I feel good about myself when I’m productive. I don’t feel sinful, weak, and pitiful.

I don’t think that is God’s goal for me – to feel good about myself (for then why would I think I have a need for a Savior?). But I also don’t think His goal is for me to feel weak and pitiful. Rather, I like what Oswald Chambers said in today’s devotional:

“The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our ‘hanging on by the skin of our teeth,’ although we say, ‘What a wonderful victory I have!’ Yet there is nothing in all of that which indicates the miracle of redemption… You are perfect only in Christ, not on the basis of this argument: ‘Oh Lord, I have done my best…’

“How long is it going to take God to free us from this unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus.”

Like Tim Keller said in his sermon Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. I am so guilty of being self-centered. SO guilty. Guilty to the nth degree. As Chambers puts it, I cannot reach and understand the depths of my own meagerness. I cannot comprehend how little I bring to the table. I can’t get my mind around how insufficient I am even on the days when it feels like I accomplished the world. But there are still those days when I constantly dwell on my meagerness, as if that were the way to make me less meager.

Productivity has the power to distract me from the fact that Christ is sufficient so I don’t have to be. And I can be content in knowing I am not. Paul was content with his weaknesses – “…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Nevertheless, I cling to productivity like a safety blanket. My sinful flesh will use anything it can to escape the reminder of my own insufficiency. I don’t want to be dependent – I want to have it all together. The issue with being insufficient is not that I am not living up to God’s expectations of me – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). It is that I don’t live up to my own expectations of me. I’m not all that I would imagine myself to be. Productivity gives me the illusion of being that person – but who am I after the dust settles (quite literally), the clothes are stained and the dog is dirty? Who am I then? I am lost.

A good friend sent me this quote when I was feeling quite down on myself and I return to it often, as a reminder of God’s love for me: “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worse about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

It is a tough thing – to be okay with not being everything you’d like to be. To accept being disappointed by yourself often. To be disillusioned, as the quote put it, about your own behavior and character and still think there might be hope for you.

Yes, everyday is a new day, full of new opportunities to make right what you made wrong the previous day. But I’m sure that I am not done disillusioning myself, not done with failing to live up to my own expectations. Which is why I’m glad God will continue to disillusion me with my illusions, reminding me that it’s a good thing to be a sinner, poor and needy, saved by grace alone.

It means I can rest.

Expectations: Unrealized or Unrealistic?

4 Apr

It’s inevitable as a human to have expectations about something. When anticipating a future event, it’s our natural tendency to picture how it will all happen and what it will be like. It’s also inevitable for the event to never turn out how you pictured it.

For women, this happens a lot with marriage. I personally grew up always dreaming. I dreamed about having a boyfriend: he would understand me perfectly and know exactly what I wanted. In high school, I dreamed about marriage: we would have the same interests and go on lots of exciting adventures. When Travis and I were dating, I imagined what being engaged would be like: I would finally be assured that I was loved. When Travis and I got engaged, I dreamed about marriage: we would finally be able to be intimate and share everything. We would lie in bed on Saturday mornings, watching cartoons, cuddling, and eating pancakes. We would go on romantic vacations and explore the world together. We would be so in love and constantly exclaiming “I love being married!” As the wedding grew closer, I dreamed about our honeymoon: a week of relaxation and bliss next to the ocean; a week of uninterrupted intimacy and romance; a picture perfect world.

But when you think about it, where do the greatest romantic movies end? Right after the beloved couple realize they’re “meant for each other.” If the movie went on (and were anything close in semblance to real life), the movie wouldn’t have such a happy ending. It wouldn’t be an unhappy ending either (not necessarily at least) but it wouldn’t leave you with the feeling that everything is right in the universe.

Rather, I imagine the feeling would be more like how my marriage makes me feel. The sense that there’s great potential for the situation but something just doesn’t sit right. That the movie started off great, you could sense the couple’s love for each other was (and is) real, but their current relationship doesn’t really seem to reflect that at all.

This morning Travis and I ended up in a fight on the way to work. About what doesn’t matter. Something insignificant, really. After I dropped him off and was on my way to my office, I started thinking. When we first got married (which will be a year ago on May 19th) and went on our honeymoon, I had a really hard time. I had been trapped in the expectations mentioned above, imagining that everything would be 100% perfect, romantic, and intimate 100% of the time. But as I discovered the first day in Mexico, even on your honeymoon, your life is still your life. Reality is still reality. When you get married, you don’t float away on the clouds with Cupid to sing love songs and feel butterflies for the rest of your life. Husband and wife are still just as sinful as fiance and fiancee–who were just as sinful as boyfriend and girlfriend–who were just as sinful as man and woman. Since we are the same people before and after said event, the relationship will mostly be the same after said event (obviously with a few exceptions).

I learned after our honeymoon that having expectations about the way things should be, especially in marriage, wasn’t a great thing to have. And I have continued learning this throughout our first year of marriage. I can’t expect Travis to be a certain way any more than I can expect myself to know what I want for lunch next Tuesday. Or what book I’ll want to read in July. Or where I’ll want to go out to dinner on November 15th–or if I’ll want to go out to dinner at all.

Neither can I expect that our marriage will be a certain way. I can’t expect us to be 100% in love and intimate all the time. I can’t expect to lie in bed on Saturday morning watching cartoons–if not just for the fact that we don’t have cable at all nor do we have a TV in our bedroom. I realize expectations cause tension and dissatisfaction when they aren’t realized.

But my question is: what do you do about your expectations? What do you do when what you had pictured your marriage being like isn’t at all what it actually is like? If you desire for your marriage to be a certain way, even after the rose-colored glasses have been sat on and squished, and yet it’s not that way, what do you do? “Change it” would be the easy response. But unfortunately, changing a marriage’s dynamic doesn’t happen overnight or easily, as I have found.

I fear that I still have expectations about our marriage and that those expectations are causing me to constantly compare our real marriage against (what I would consider) our ideal marriage. But is our real marriage ever going to measure up? Do I need to edit my expectations so that they are more in line with what it is actually like? Sheryl Crow says in her song “Soak up the Sun”–“It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you got.”

Does marriage come down to wanting what you got instead of getting what you want? Are my expectations about marriage just unrealized or are they unrealistic?