I almost shot my car after one of our Montana blizzards.
A foot of wet snow had fallen in just a few hours and the roads were impossible. I’d been out earlier in the day in my son’s Honda, and had struggled to make it up the long hill leading to our street. It took three runs, but I was impressed that his little car actually made it.
Later in the day, I was out in my Saab. Made in Sweden. Where they get lots of snow. Front wheel drive. Snow tires all the way around. But it did no better than Jeff’s Honda. The first two times up the hill I stalled. It took a third try full throttle to finally make it.
“This car is a piece of junk!” I grumbled to Corlette as we finally crested the hill. “The engineers at Saab are designing worthless hunks of metal these days. I’m going to trade this in on a Honda!”
Why was I so angry with my Saab, but patient with the Honda, when the two cars struggled equally to make the grade?
Expectations. They trigger so much disappointment, criticism, and anger in my life.
I didn’t expect anything special from the Honda … after all, how much snow do they get in Japan? So I was actually pleased when it did so well on that snowy hill.
But I’ve driven Saabs for thirty-seven years and expect them to climb snow-drifted hills like a mountain goat. When my latest Saab fell short of my expectations, I was mad enough to shoot it.
Not surprisingly, expectations get me into even more trouble with people. I’m rarely upset, bitter, or resentful toward strangers or casual acquaintances. I don’t expect much from them, so they rarely fall short.
Not so with my wife, children, church, or co-workers. I give a lot to them and expect much in return. Often too much. And when they fall short, it’s amazing how intensely disappointed and even bitter I can become … just like I did with my Saab.
But when I give those expectations up to the Lord, life is so much more enjoyable and productive. I can still pray for others and graciously encourage them to do their best, but wisdom calls me to then set aside any excessive demands and leave the results in God’s hands.
Oh, and about the Saab. Corlette called the dealer and found out that there’s a little button on the dash called “Electronic Stability Protection.” When I push it while driving in deep snow, that little car turns into a mountain goat.
If I cling to high expectations, I guess I should at least read the manual.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2).
Reflection Questions (Most effective when shared with a friend; James 1:22-25)
- How do expectations set you up to criticize or judge others?
- Is there someone you’re easily critical of? How is that related to your expectations of that person?
- What is the difference between encouraging others to do their best, and judging them for not meeting your expectations?
- What does God expect of you? What has he done to cover over your failure to meet those expectations? (see Rom. 3:23; Col. 1:21-22) How can you imitate his grace?
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© 2013 Ken Sande
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