by Becca Christensen
Last year I went through Freedom. For 10 weeks I met with a group of ladies and dealt with our baggage. As I was writing my fourth card for 2014 (I’m writing one letter a week thanking or encouraging someone) this morning I was reminded of my answered prayers.
One of the beautiful aspects of Freedom is releasing anything holding you captive. As I searched my own heart and prayed about what was holding me back from being emotionally and spiritually healthy I knew that if I were ever going to be and stay whole, I had to let go of my unmet expectations.
If you’ve been my friend in real life for long you know that I have extremely high standards of people. I should say that I hold myself to the highest standards of all. If I expect someone to call me on my birthday every year – then I make sure I call them on their birthday, anniversary, and Christmas. If I ask my small group girls to do homework for bible study then I do the homework, cook the dinner, and read an entire book just for an idea of a closing prayer request question. I try always to set the bar highest for myself. However, my standards for other people and often for myself are unrealistically high.
When I thought about the relationships I felt burned by over the past few years they could all be traced back to unmet expectations. I felt let down when people didn’t handle situations the way I would have. Pretty unfair, huh?
I am unapologetically uncompromising in what I believe. I once was failed from a college course for standing up to a professor who belittled his students. I simply couldn’t keep quiet about something I knew to be wrong.
I imagine I’m about 10 years later than the rest of the world in realizing that everyone isn’t like me. Some people are shy or quiet. Some are reserved. While I’m a trail blazing leader, there are also followers. Just as wholly as I am a chief, there are also Indians. And you know what, the world needs that balance. In fact, the idea of a world full of crazy, headstrong survivors like me is a bit terrifying.
What I mean to say is, with all the variety in people how could I possibly expect people to all react or handle things the way I do? How did I even expect them to know what I would do? And mercy, it hardly seems like a good idea for people to run around asking what Becca would do. But without realizing it, I think that’s what I was doing.
Ok let me get this back on track. My fourth card of the year went out to a friend I am in the process of reconciling with as a result of what I learned and let go of in Freedom. I stood before my prayer partner and my God and I released all of my unmet expectations. This may sound a bit dramatic but I pictured myself literally taking all my grudges, hurt feelings, anger, and ‘stuff’ I’d been toting around with me and set them down at my Saviors feet.
The flip side of this is that I also realize how many expectations I’ve failed to meet over the years. Worse still, I recognize what a terrible quality being ungracious and unforgiving is. I’ve prayed earnestly over the past few years as my small group girls can attest to be more forgiving. I know how wholly I have needed forgiveness and how graciously it’s been given to me. Somehow this still is a struggle for me.
In Freedom I became infamous for sharing on the first day that I have a tendency to consider people ‘dead to me’ if they offend me at a certain level. I said that in my typically sarcastic Becca way but I was also giving them a window into my struggle. As I had hoped, sharing that struggle was the beginning of overcoming it.
When I prayed to release all those unmet expectations from several key relationships in my life – I remember adding at the end ‘and I promise Lord, not to take them back’. Maybe you’re all a million times better at this stuff than I am. I hope so. But I have a tendency to ‘let something go’ only to pick it back up when that person lets me down again. I’m careful not to bring it up in a fight but the feelings come up anyway. I have allowed them to resurface over and over as a justification for why I feel the way I do about that person or situation even months down the road.
This time, I was determined to give them up and not take them back.
The woman I prayed with asked me afterwards, so, do you think this will fix your relationships? My coworkers like to say I live in the ‘honest box’ where I hold nothing back. I told her it wasn’t about that. I wasn’t sacrificing my expectations to make something work. I was giving them up because they were holding me back in my relationship with the Lord. He calls me to be forgiving. He tells me in his word he’s going to forgive me the way I forgive others and you know what? In November, that was still a pretty scary thought.
That prayer? That was about me doing the right thing. It was a necessary step in getting myself where I need to be with the Lord, the only one who’s never going to let me down.
In the months since then I have prayed to stop putting those expectations on other people. And I’ve kept my word, never picking back up those unmet expectations I sacrificed that morning. Here’s the truly sweet part. Even though it wasn’t my motivation for doing so – there has been restoration in my relationships. In the two that were heaviest on my heart when I went into that weekend – I have seen growth in leaps and bounds.
When I finally dealt with my piece, the restoration and healing was waiting. It came easy and natural. No one is more surprised than I. Or more grateful for that matter.
How can you release what is holding you captive? Share your comments below!
Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her blog, www.beccachristensen.wordpress.com.