Faith / Spirit, Relationships, Weekly Reflections

Expectations Damage

Reflection for Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Written by Rev. Jacqueline Samson, Minister of St. Stephen’s United Church in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan

Gospel Reading: Mark 6: 1-13

The story of Jesus’ unwelcome reception in his hometown and his instruction on how to leave an inhospitable place … it presents us with a lesson on learning about how the spirit dwells and moves in ways that do not always conform to our own expectations and conventions.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer …

In our Gospel story we find Jesus coming back to his hometown of Nazareth. He comes back to the place where he grew up … to the place where he lived the rather ordinary life of a carpenter’s son and then as a carpenter himself. Unexpectedly, Jesus returns home after a few years away and he has come back a very different person than the people of his hometown remember and expect. Jesus is now a spiritual teacher and he even performs miracles and heals people who are sick. Jesus even has followers … his very own disciples who are willing to just drop everything to follow and be with him. When he left them, he was a carpenter of questionable birth and now he reappears as a wise prophet of God! These former neighbours, friends, and family had certain expectations of this man and they were not prepared for what Jesus had become. Indeed, their expectations of what they thought Jesus should be and do destroyed the possibility of having any sort of a healing relationship with him. There should have been a sign that read…DANGER EXPECTATIONS AHEAD!!!

At first glance these people were perhaps just a wee bit spell bound … they even said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands?”

Unfortunately, it did not take long until their expectations of Jesus overrode their captivation of him and they began to feel contempt as they found themselves saying, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”

Indeed, Jesus was surrounded by people who expected him to be just one of them … to be as they remembered him and not as some miracle worker/prophet that had been sent by God to change their lives. In their minds Jesus had failed to live up to the expectations they had of him.

Jesus responded in a very human way by using his own barbed words, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And then he shook the dust of his feet and left his hometown and its people. I think that Jesus wanted us to see how damaging expectations are to our relationships. He also wanted to give us an example of the unsettled conflict that arises when they are left untouched. This quote by Shakespeare says it brilliantly: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

I invite you to think for a minute of some of the expectations that you have with regards to the people in your lives. I bet that there is even someone that you are frustrated with RIGHT NOW … someone that you expect to do more … someone that you expect to understand you better … someone that you expect to just know what you need. The truth that Jesus may have been offering in this homecoming encounter is that as humans we spend much of our lives suffering as people fail to live up to our expectations. Clinical counsellors who work closely with individuals and couples notice a common theme for those struggling with relationship issues. The theme is the conflict that happens due to unmanaged or unsaid expectations.

We all have certain expectations about relationships that many of us do not acknowledge to ourselves let alone our unsuspecting partners. So where do these expectations come from anyway? They come from how we were raised, the society in which we grew up, the types of books and TV shows we watched, how we were treated by the people in our social worlds, and many other factors. It is crazy how much we learn from the family that we grew up in … our family of origin. This is where we learn how to show and receive affection, how to negotiate for things we want, how to communicate our needs and feelings so others will listen, and what to expect from the people who love us.

Each of us has developed a unique set of expectations for relationships based on our  experiences. In addition to giving and receiving love we all have expectations around things like: communication, power and control, housework, religious and spiritual beliefs, friendships, the degree of emotional dependency, etc. Unfortunately, very few people openly discuss these topics. Then conflict happens when one person’s expectations are not met by the other party. So what can we do with these damaging expectations? Is there some way that we can alleviate the suffering that having expectations causes us?

A few weeks ago Leanne Hintz shared with me a way that she had heard about from a writer/podcaster she follows whose name is Jill Ethier (https://player.fm/series/ninja-jill-knows/episode-183-what-are-you-expecting). Jill invites her listeners to make a commitment to only working in agreements with people and to drop their expectations of them. The idea is to speak in agreements with the person that you need something from and it begins with a question like … “Are you willing to make your bed in the morning before you leave for school?” The person you are asking gets to answer either yes or no. If they say yes then you have a clear verbal agreement rather than an unclear expectation of them. Agreements bring clarity so you know where you stand with the person, whereas expectations often create suffering and misery … When you say to someone, “I expect more of you,” it rarely leads to the outcome that you desire.

If they say no then you will have to come up with an agreement that they can agree with too.

As some of you may know Leanne is a regular blog writer. On her website called “Our Life Well Lived” she shares the blessings and challenges of family life. Leanne has agreed to come up and share a little about how this important life lesson on creating agreements rather than having expectations has helped her to live a freer life.

Be sure to check out “Expectations” to read what was shared during the service.

Thanks so much for sharing, Leanne.

I wonder what would have happened in today’s Gospel story if the people in Jesus’ hometown had made an agreement with Jesus instead of shutting down the relationship because of their expectations of him? They simply could have asked him to share his God given gifts of healing and wisdom with them … I am sure he would have agreed and great things could have happened. I invite you to experiment with agreements as you let go of your expectations and see what happens. Maybe you will alleviate some of the suffering and misery in your own relationships. May it be so.

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