“For Far too long we have been seduced into walking a path that did not lead us to ourselves. For far too long we have said yes when we wanted to say no. And for far too long we have said no when we desperately wanted to say yes.”
–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
Have you ever heard or said the words: “Well, she’ll have to learn the hard way”? I heard them a lot growing up, but being the overachiever, play-by-the-rules type, they weren’t usually applied to me.
As I shared in my last post, I came into my first two jobs with the strong impression that to be successful I had to strive to be the best and to fulfill other people’s expectations of me. However, no where factored in that equation was a healthy balance of taking care of myself. It was a system that worked really well in school–having only to please my professors–but worked miserably in the real world.
I only began to realize how badly my system worked, after I turned twenty-five. At that point, I had been at my second real job for about a year and a half, when all of a sudden, it seemed, everything went to crap. My boss was moving up, people were resigning, and all of a sudden I felt like the duck on the Aflac commercial–who, when he discovers that he is on a sinking boat, thinks it is his responsibility to plug all of the holes.
Though I wasn’t alone, I was going down.
Two months of “plugging holes” went by, when our team was blessed by two new additions to our staff. All of a sudden the boat seemed to be floating again, and I thought everything was going to be OK.
Then November came around and I got bronchitis. I lost my voice for at least a week. Imagine trying to run a program and teach 60-70 Jr. High students, without a voice? Yeah, I am sure many people have done it, but:
December: bronchitis and no voice for a least a week
January: bronchial pneumonia and no voice.
February: bronchitis and you guessed, no voice.
March: it was getting old.
On one of my many visits to the doctor for antibiotics, I asked her “is there anything I can do to not get sick this much?” She looked at me with a blank stare.
One thing that isn’t talked about enough is that when we stop listening to our inner voice that’s telling us to take a break, our body often starts speaking in a voice we can’t ignore. By February and March, I knew I couldn’t live this way.
I had been journaling and praying to God about all the changes that were still happening in my job, my recurring illness, the feeling that I was still carrying so much on my own, and “oh, Lord, I am still single, remember?” Finally, in March, I reached my breaking point. I didn’t want another date with my doctor in April, and I was ready to hear what God had to say:
YOU’RE NOT GOD, Melissa
Ok, He didn’t exactly say that, but close.
As I sat in bed, journaling–home sick for what felt like the millionth time–I began to feel God showing me that I was trying to live into impossible expectations. There were things that I thought people expected of me that they didn’t, things I expected of myself that superwoman couldn’t achieve, and expectations that some people had for me that weren’t healthy–and I was trying to succeed in them all!
As I thought all of this over, I began to feel God show me one more thing. He said:
“Live into my expectations.”
All of a sudden, my “to do list” and “people to please list” shrunk significantly. All I had to do was begin to ask the question “what is God expecting of me?”
Some of you may be thinking: “easier said than done” and maybe “yea, like God is going to give me a to do list every day?”
But as I thought about His simple words, I realized a few things:
- Because God created us, He knows what we are capable of, even better than we do–so His expectations are going to be doable.
- When we are in relationship with Him, everything that He expects of us, He expects us to do with His help.
- The second commandment is to love others–if I am doing my best to love (not please, there is a difference!) the people God has put in front of me, I am living into His expectations.
- God created us to be in community, so we don’t have to “do and be it all.” I had people in my life who could help me not only plug holes, but help our ministry thrive.
Now, these truths freed me–but not overnight. (A few months later, I landed myself in the hospital with a gallbladder issue and acid reflux). I needed the help of friends, mentors, and a counselor, to begin to undo all of the patterns of striving and people pleasing that were part of my way of doing life. I needed to learn how not to live into the unhealthy expectations others and I had placed upon myself.
Whose expectations are you living into?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
–Jesus, Matthew 11:28