It seems like there is no other time during the year that my expectations get me into trouble like the holiday season. There are so many emotions tied into the celebrations and the giving and receiving. I expect certain gifts, I expect people to behave a certain way, I expect my family to spend time together, and of course, I expect everyone to do it all my way and with a jolly attitude!
Unfortunately, it is when I let those unmet expectations ruin my joy, that I get my britches in a bunch and fail to treat others with that loving attitude that I expected from them. My husband, Jerry, likes to remind me that it is unfair to judge others by their actions while I am judging myself based on my intentions!
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:32-36 gives us directions about our expectations. Though Jesus is talking about lending to our enemies in these verses, we can all identify with a time that a family member or closest friend has felt like the enemy. In this passage, Jesus clearly tells us that we should be more concerned about what we have to offer, and less concerned with what we get or how our offering is received. As a matter of fact, He goes as far as to say, point blank, that we should not expect anything in return! Jesus actually says that our reward will be greater if we don't get anything back. Absurd thinking? No! Instead, He is teaching us how to give in love the way He gives.
The concept of giving to someone who may not give back or even receive our offering, is expanded in the passage about difficult relationships found in Romans 12:9-21. Verse 10b rings out loud and clear, "Honor one another above yourselves." Not only is this contrary to what our world says we should do, it is flat out hard! It is easy to say that we should always think of the other person, but when it comes to actually laying our own desires to the side for the sake of relationship, most of us find our selfishness coming out in full force!
I had an opportunity to practice this selfless attitude many times this holiday season, but one example in particular shines above the rest. I really wish that I could say that I passed the test with flying colors, but that would not quite be true. Fortunately, I was able to work through my selfishness with only my very patient husband as a witness, and I am happy to say that the Holy Spirit won out in the end.
The incident all began with an announcement from a family member about holiday plans that didn’t quite jive with what I had in mind. Truth be told, I was right and she was wrong in worldly terms, and that is how I approached it at first. As I mumbled under my breath about her selfishness, my husband just listened and God whispered to my heart. As soon as I had quieted down enough to hear Him, God started reminding me about how relationship was so much more important than being right. It wasn’t long before I began to remember what God said in His word about putting others above myself, and soon, I was even recalling incidences when I had thought my plans were so important and then discovered that it all worked out in the end.
After a few phone calls to other family members to rearrange some plans, I had peace about the situation even though it didn’t work out quite like I had expected. Several days later, that family member amended the plans herself without my meddling. Everyone was happy and no relationships were harmed in the celebration of Christmas at our house! It wasn’t what I expected, but it was probably even better!
My reward was the best part of the whole event. Within the next two days, I had three opportunities to share my story and the wisdom that God had taught me about giving without expecting in return. My son, my friend, and another family member all called or came to me with situations in which their expectations were not being met. After talking and encouraging them, all three had the opportunity to experience the peace that I had felt. God is so good!