Right before I started reading my Bible and journaling, I was surfing Instagram on my phone. I mean what better way to prepare my heart and all to hear something new from God, right? While I agree this isn’t the ideal way to prepare my heart, I firmly believe God can use any means possible to reach us. I know he did use my focus on Instagram that night to prepare me.
As I scrolled, two pivotal posts appeared. The first one was a post from Shauna Neiquest, an author,
“’I’m learning to love the sound of my own feet walking away from things not meant for me.’ -A.G.
I have a tendency to hold too tightly to the past, to long for things to stay how they’ve always been.
In this season, I’m trying to release my grip on what was & open my hands to hold what might be next.
The questions I’m asking, in prayer & in quiet: “What do I need to walk away from?” & “What is no longer meant for me?” Hard. Healing. ❤
After I was hit with that bombshell, another post, from Lara Casey posted this question, “If you could pick just one thing, what do you most want to cultivate in your life?”
Interesting. Two different posts from two different women of two different ministry focus points. What am I holding on to that is no longer meant for me? What do I most want to cultivate in my life? Immediately I knew the answer to the second question—Jesus. The answer is always Jesus. It may seem like a flippant response, but it’s not. I’ve come to a place in my life where I know the answer to all things is Jesus. We cannot just respond Jesus and truly mean it if we have no experience with him and his work in, around, and through us.
Nothing else matters. If my focus is on Jesus, all else falls in place. I won’t be side tracked by expectations of others. The to-do lists. The overwhelming needs around me. Life will not swallow me whole. I will be equipped and provided for in all ways. My cup will be full. My life will be full and satisfying. I will experience pure joy and peace. I will be kind, gentle, and gracious. I will overflow with thankfulness. I will be humble, not elevating myself in a position above others. No. My goal is to exude the love and kindness of Jesus to others, out of compassion teaching them in the way to go. So my response to the question posed by Lara is: The one thing I want to cultivate is my relationship with Christ.
But that first question, that first question is so hard for me to answer. It’s not because I don’t know what I need to let go of—boy do I know what I need to let go of. The problem lies in that I do not want to let anything go. That would admit I wasn’t able to control all the things. This Enneagram type one must control, perfect, and help keep everyone following the rules. In this example, the rules mean expectations. I have set such high expectations for myself and expect others to fall in line with those unattainable goals. Something else, though is I take on the expectations of others. Not their verbalized expectations of me. No, the expectations I put on others to put on me. Did you follow that? I clearly am never enough and never settled.
You see, I was raised in a house that was very much based on expectations. It was never a question that it was expected I make good grades, excel at everything I did, and of course, I’d go to college and be successful. I enjoyed this. It gave me something to strive for. It gave me focus. It gave me purpose but what it also did was give me false satisfaction because once I did achieve expectations, it wasn’t enough. There is always the next bigger and better goal to achieve. I slipped into bouts of depression. It caused me to realize I can never measure up to others’ expectations or the extreme expectations I have of my own. I’d spin my wheels. Try harder. Make more lists. Study more. Sign up for more classes than necessary while in college. I was always out to prove myself. Prove my worthiness. Prove I was lovable. Prove I was worthy to be respected.
I had a great college experience. I learned so much about life and about the people in the world. I graduated with honors. I landed a job I loved with people who respected me and cared for me. I was up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, at work by 6:15 a.m. I’d arrive home sometime after 5:00 p.m. most nights and still had papers to grade, things to plan, meetings to attend, and required volunteering to do. I excelled at classroom management. I was provided opportunities to grow in leadership and teaching skills. It was satisfying work, but it was an empty life.
After having our first child, I took maternity leave for the first semester. I decided to go back to work the second semester because I could do it all and be great at it all. Except I saw Dietrich, my preemie first born baby, for two hours a day that second semester. Two hours. That wasn’t enough. The decision to be a stay at home mom, was the first decision I’ve ever made, that truly mattered. It was the beginning of me cultivating what matters.
I didn’t want to tell anyone about the decision to be a stay at home mom right away. If I did tell them it means I admit I can’t do it all. Yes, I definitely received criticism. I can’t lie about that. It was painful to not receive open support from people that are supposed to matter.
Expectations are hard. We must have expectations, but healthy ones that are attainable and within reason. When I am mentally unhealthy, that’s when I take expectations to the extreme and whether knowing it or not when I’m vulnerable, this is usually where I take the deepest hits. People can attack me and hurt me when it comes to expectations because for me, expectations, perfection, worthiness, and respect were all wound into the same strand.
The expectations of others are not mine to hold onto.The expectations I do need to hold onto aren’t my own ridiculous expectations either. The expectations I need—are those that belong to God.
Living the life I say I believe—I don’t want to hold onto things that aren’t meant for me any more. I want to let go of things of the past and open my hands to what God wants me to cultivate now. I want to focus on what is truly important I don’t want to miss my opportunity to be a vessel to bring more people home with me.