Freedom from expectations: Running to be free

I have tried to do it all.

I have tried to do it perfectly.

I have tried to wow the world, or at least just my husband.

And every time I come up short.

Expectations are probably the number one struggle in this life for most of us – our own expectations, expectations placed on us from others, floating cultural expectations, made-up expectations. You name it, someone or something expects it.

The difficult reality is that without belief we will not be able to manage all the expectation. This is Biblical fact. Goodness, it’s hard enough to manage expectation even with the hope of Christ.

Paul lays out this reality for the Galatians in Galatians 3:10-14:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

It is so easy to run from belief in order to be free.

Belief to unbelievers often feels too much like expectation – following rules, making commitments, organized nonsense.

There is expectation in life. Yes, it’s a thing. Without belief, these expectations are my doom. The Greek word for curse in Galatians 3:10 is kataran or a curse, doomed one, due to condemnation.

The curse Paul talks about in Galatians says, yes, I will never measure up to any expectation, not a single one.

Galatians 3:11 says:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law…

The irony is that in facing the expectations head on, in looking the law in the eye, living in belief of God, instead of closing our eyes to all the expectation and running away to hide in unbelief, if we just open our eyes, we would see the beautiful Truth of redemption:

In Christ, the law looks a lot less like expectation and a lot more like crucifixion.

Christ Jesus came into the world so that we no longer live under this curse. Those expectations? Every single one – whether they are appropriate, inappropriate, or somewhere wonky in the middle – is intended by God to remind us of freedom.

When someone puts an expectation on me, when I see, hear, or feel an expectation rising up within my soul, now, because the curse has been lifted in Christ’s crucifixion, I respond with freedom.

Freedom to live in Christ, to love in Christ, to carry out my vocations and roles honoring others, serving in His name.

Every single expectation is in my freedom.

Cooking dinner for the seventieth night in a row – freedom in Christ! I do it because I like food, and I love my family, not because I have to.

Talking nicely to someone I don’t like – freedom in Christ! My eternity is secured whether I talk nice or not, but life is better when I do.

Giving time or money – Freedom in Christ! I could keep it all, spend it all, or Ebenezer it all, but something in my heart just won’t, because God gave me people and people matter more.

It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. Freedom doesn’t look perfect, but it doesn’t cease being freedom. I have it, whether I use it or not, feel it or not.

Today I am praying for that Spirit of Faith and Freedom in you.

…so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Let the Holy Spirit well up. Write it on your wrist, your hand, or wherever you can see it as a reminder. Every time you feel the weight of expectation, of “not enough,” say it out loud:

Freedom in Christ!

And then go about your business. Do what needs to be done in your home, your family, at school, at work, at church, in life, but knowing that curses are for unbelief, expectations are the law- pointing us straight to our freedom in Christ.

He lives! And so I do to. I live in belief, and truth in love, because that’s Him in me, that’s real freedom.

Spirit, speak freedom into our lives. May expectation only point us to Him, every time, to live free and full, and abundantly, eyes wide open, in love, in care, in giving…

Freedom in Christ!

(INSERT GRAPHIC freedom in Christ!)

Discussion questions:

What expectations get to you – at home, at work, in friendship and relationships, at church, as a citizen, anywhere?

How does freedom through Christ Jesus change expectations for the believer?

How can we help one another live in freedom in our vocations and roles, while being faithful to the Word of Truth?

 

Freedom from perfection: The day I stopped cleaning my house

Two years ago I stopped cleaning my house. Not completely, just strategically when friends were coming over.

Do I sound like a crazy woman yet?

You see, I have a problem with perfection.

It eats at me.

I like things just so, just right, just…perfect.

And they never will be.

The weight of perfection was crushing me a few years ago and I knew a Band-Aid needed to be ripped off somewhere. My house was the easiest place to start. I began an adventure of fighting for imperfect.

I created a schedule for cleaning my house, because I like to fight germs and all that, and I held myself to the schedule. I refused to clean something just because someone was coming over. I had ruined too many cups of coffee with friends by getting up in the middle to clean that little place behind the toilet seat that never, ever seems clean. I had sat down to too many delightful dinners with friends filled with the anxiety of wondering what they would notice I missed.

My house example is so small in the grand scheme of what is important in life, but Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:15-19, that no piece of our lives should be ruled by perfection:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

What are we living for?

I chase freedom like crazy with my spray bottle of vinegar and washcloth. I scrub and I scrub so that life feels more perfect and when you walk into my house you won’t judge me. I chase freedom in the law by assuming I’ll feel better if I can just appear a little more put together.

The law demands perfection.

 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 (emphasis added)

What kind of requirement is in the law? Righteous, yes. Right, justifiable, perfect, yes.

We can never live up to the law. God may not care how clean my house is, but I am, by nature, and by deed, imperfect. My house is just another reminder that there’s always something- I will never, never, “have it together.” It’s Biblical Truth.

But God, He does something more. He does something different. I am freed from perfection by Christ Jesus. He fulfilled what I cannot, so I can live for what matters – Gospel.

In fighting the urge to clean my house for you to visit me, I take perfection off the table in our relationship. I stop assuming judgement on your part, which was never really fair to begin with.

I do not clean for you, because if I clean for you that assumes that there is a judgement of what my house should look like, what you expect it to look like in order for us to maintain our relationship. But I believe better of you, my friend. I believe you love me enough to not judge me, to give Gospel and share grace. I believe that when you come over you come to see me, you don’t come to see any part of my house, that living to God means that relationship matters more than “just so.” The house is simply a platform, a location, a place that is warm and friendly, that we can gather.

I think dropping the assumption of judgement from others is the only way we can end all the judging. I will not judge you, I will not judge your house, I will not judge your family I will not judge your kids, I will simply be your friend and love you.

This seems to me very connected to the Gospel motivation Paul props up in Galatians 2:19:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

We died to the law. Literally died to it, in our baptism. All this judgement, one woman to another, perceived or real, it means nothing.

We need not aim for perfect. Christ already came to our “house,” our lives, our families, cleaned it up by His blood, proclaims us holy in Him. Now we just live there, proclaiming His gospel grace to one another.

Chasing perfect – It’s so tempting.

Dropping perfect – It’s a challenge.

Freedom in Christ – already won.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free… let’s live there.


Discussion questions:

What area of life do you struggle with trying to be perfect or at least avoid the judgement of others?

How can we help one another embrace more freedom from the judgement of others?

Chose one area of life – family, chores, work, exercise, volunteering, neighboring, ministry, etc. – what Gospel message do you need to hear there? How can you let the Holy Spirit motivate via the Gospel instead of seeking motivation through the law of should’s and must’s?

 

The Truth about Mental Health: For you and for your children


I would like to proclaim a truth about mental health:

It just is.

Mental health is something we all have. I know we’d like to relegate it to people with some diagnosable illness, someone far different from ourselves, or some distant cousin that no one talks about, but you have it. I have it. We all have it.

Mental health is part of all of us. It’s made up of our neurons and hormones and synapses. It’s made up of our emotions, our sensory system, our experiences, our heredity, and our relationships.

We have this gigantic part of us that we are ignoring, wishing, hoping-for-the-best that it stays on the up-and-up.

Let’s proclaim a new truth together: Mental Health is.

We all have it. It’s a part of us. Sometimes it’s happy and doing well. Sometimes it’s struggling. Some of us struggle with it more, others of us less. Sometimes it needs treatment, medications, and more support than we’d like, but it’s better that way; peaceful, functioning well with some help. But it’s important to understand that it’s a thing inside each of us, not relegated to someone less than, outcast, or disconnected. It may look different in each of us, more dramatic perhaps in some of us, mostly happy in others of us, but it’s always there, a part of us, woven and knit in us by our Creator, messed with by a world full of sin.

In today’s podcast I present more on this truth. I pray it helps lighten the shame associated with mental health, for us and for our children.

Sometimes, we think we need to “keep it together.” We need to be at the top of our mental health game and so does everyone in our households.

When we read Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

we think “training them up right” means that we just need to teach them the Word, good values, good morals, good character, and then they’ll be able to “keep it together.”

Truth: It doesn’t work like that.

Training them up means sharing hope and sharing the struggle. It means gathering around the Word so that when the hard times come we know where to turn and so do our children. It means helping them learn that there is no shame in sharing the burden, getting help from experts, and being honest about brain chemistry, individual needs, and when mental health goes awry.

Our children won’t be perfect. We won’t be perfect. Often mental health is out of our control, out of their control; but it is never out of God’s control. He is in the realm of synapses and emotions and struggle too. He is God of even this- when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s ugly.

Truth: We all have mental health.

Let’s normalize that. Let’s rejoice in the gift of one another for support and encouragement when we each need it. Let’s thank the Lord for the creation of medicines, for doctors and nurses and therapists who are in the know, for hope in a God who values our tears when we’re hurting and holds our arms up in the triumph…for us, and for our children.

 

I Love My Shepherd Podcast, Episode 17: The Truth about Mental Health