Monday, May 16, 2016

A Spacious Place

from Grace Notes *
I'm going to use the blog as a bit of a therapy journal, so if you have your life completely together and don't understand those of us who don't, this post probably isn't for you.  If you are stumbling along, like me, this post still may not interest you.  In fact, this post may be entirely for my own benefit - but it's my blog, so I can do that.

"He brought me out into a spacious place." - Psalm 18:19

I've spent my life hemmed in by expectations - expectations for being a wife, expectations for being a stay-at-home mom, expectations for being a mother of teens, expectations for being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a church member . . .

When I was working outside our home, the job carried expectations, but someone was paying me for those hours and they had the right to expect specific skills, tasks and duties in exchange for their money.

Some of the expectations are self-inflicted.  Some are societal.  Some - usually the strongest - are intentionally imposed by others.  And some are the random result of life circumstances.  

Picture life as a room - a generous-sized room.  At first the room was occupied by me, my parents and my sister.  Then grandparents came to visit, followed by another sister, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We all fit comfortably.  Soon there were neighbors, schoolmates, teachers, pastors, and friends.  There was still plenty of room for the people, but now they each carried some expectations for me.  How they expected me to behave, how they expected me to perform at school, how they expected me to interact. These expectations gave me security.  After all I was a child, unable to navigate alone - I needed their guidelines.

As time passed, my world expanded and more people pressed into the room, bringing more expectations, and things started to get a bit crowded.  Expectations had to shift and some got shoved into the corners because I needed space for my own developing expectations.  However, since they all remained in the room, my expectations for myself had to form around them.

Some expectations naturally left when their period of life was over, but newer, bigger, less flexible ones always took their place.  The bar set for third-grade math scores was replaced by the rules of safe driving, a much more rigid bar.  Much-awaited adulthood came with a surprising mound of expectations that demanded top billing.  The room of life was bulging.  There was no space for me to stretch out and be completely comfortable any more. No matter which way I stretched, I bumped, dented or hid someone's expectations, and they began to complain.

I've made attempts, some successful and some not, to "spring clean" and purge my life of unwanted expectations.  My grandparents have been gone for many years and, while their expectations are forever engraved in me, they no longer require their own floor-space in the room.  My parents' expectations have been fulfilled and shrunk as we begin the inevitable shift of aging.  And I have come to realize that some of the societal expectations were only in the room because I was too scared to let them out.

As I approach another birthday in a couple weeks, I have been feeling suffocated by fifty-five years of expectational baggage crammed into every nook, cranny and closet of life.  I have heard two voices in the last week telling me that it's time to "Let it go".  First my daughter, - half my age but, so often, twice my wisdom - said "My dream for you, Mom, is confidence."  I used to have confidence; I know I did.  I think that in one of our frequent moves, it got misplaced between the never-ending community expectations for the "new girl", my children's reasonable expectation of a solid foundation on which to build their own "room of life", and squeezing myself in to make way as my husband expanded his expectations for our new chapter of life.  

The second voice telling me to "Let it go" was God's.  "I have brought you out into a spacious place.  The only expectations here are Mine, and they are surprisingly light.  In this place, there is room for more than expectations.  There is space to dance, to create, to relax, to give with no expectations of return, to allow others to live without carrying the burden of your expectations.  There is space to focus on Me.  There is room to bloom in grace."

*Picture from Kelly @ Grace Notes.  I encourage you to visit her page and read her more elequent thoughts on Psalm 18:19.