Expectations: A Call To Love Gently

Remember being a kid and playing tackle football in someone’s backyard? The Van Kirks had the perfect house in Persimmon Hills because their backyard led out into this expansive green-way that was essentially the length of a football field. Virtually every day in the Fall, I’d come home and finish practicing my Spelling Words, and then sprint on down to their house to join up with other kids from our baseball team. In the “off-season” we’d spend our free-time racking up numerous hours playing Halo and Madden in their basement. But most importantly, we’d play football in their ‘backyard’.

As hard to believe as it is, there were kids bigger than me  – at the time I was tall but skinny, and I had recently been diagnosed with Scoliosis which required me to wear a Milwaukee style back-brace that rung up around my neck and gave me “abs of steel” as my neighbor Luke would joke as he “fake-punched” me a few times at the bus-stop on our street. Due to this, I was limited to just 4 hours of time out of the back-brace, during which I was supposed to be active – playing sports and running around playing other games to strengthen the muscles in my back and hopefully prevent surgery.

Football was our favorite. I remember one particular time when I caught a screen pass from Joey and went sprinting down the “sidelines” – a much larger kid at the time came charging at my blind-side and tackled me into the ground, nearly sitting on my chest at the end. I couldn’t breathe because of his sheer mass and strength over me and Joseph reamed the kid for destroying me like that since everyone knew I had back issues and was physically more “fragile” than others.

I’m thinking back to that particular moment in my childhood history because I’ve had moments lately where I’ve had that same earth-shattering pressure on my chest that’s kept me from breathing. Except for this time, it’s not physical – it’s emotional, mental, and spiritual as the expectations of those I love weigh heavily upon me. (This isn’t singling any one person or group or family out – this is encapsulating just about everyone I care about. So read this with patience and a desire to understand – not with a defensive eye, wondering if I’m slandering anyone; I’m not.)

Love does some absolutely amazing things and then it also does some weird and painful things. Love has wrecked me in such a way that I’ll never be the same man ever again and I’m grateful for that pain (because now I see why and then I did not – God is, was, and will forever be faithful). Love has melted me. There are aspects of my heart and character that have been so hard and chiseled into stubborn mindsets (that are still there sometimes), but true love was worth the wait – it’s taken my immovable pride and shipwrecked it in a cove full of grace and forgiving and the opportunity for gradual changes that lead to further life.

Love always desires what’s best for the other person. It’s an excellent trait – to be filled with love. But as instigators of love, I feel we often forget the one we’re loving. Obviously you haven’t outright forgotten about them, because you’re loving them – you’re offering counsel and advice, and you are trying to bring aid in their time of apparent need – and the one being loved is grateful. But sometimes in our attempts to be the lover – the rescuer – the redeemer – their Savior (catching my drift?) – we totally forget that we’re loving someone with a heart just like ours and that no man or woman can mold or shape that heart aside from God and them. To assume that you, yourself, are going to be the sole agent of change in someone’s life is too great a burden to bear. You’ll fail every time and then you’ll wonder why – “I raised them better than that,” or “I told them so” might be our knee-jerk reactions to their naivety. And yet, it was not the healthy that Jesus sought the company of, but the sick. He loved them anyways and sometimes that was just being present until His counsel was requested.

When you get engaged, there’s something in our culture that dictates everyone feels they have to give you their golden-nugget of counsel – things to do and not do – all the way from sex-life before (NA) and during marriage to everyday objectives like figuring out how to steward and domesticate the resources each of you have. They’re all doing this out of love, but when you’re someone that already has extremely high and critical opinions of yourself and desires for your performance and then others add theirs to the piles, unsolicited, it becomes a suffocating burden.

I’ve learned a couple of things while dealing with this insurmountable burden of other’s expectations for me and for my future family – I have a pride problem and I need to pray more. I find myself frantically annoyed with people that possess similarly strong and dynamic personalities like myself. It’s ironic that what annoys us about other people is often something we need to adjust in our own lives as well. I think it’s one of the many ways God humbles us.

This blog is getting lengthy and I’m getting distracted by all of the reading I wanted to do as well today (and by the occasional customer as well, since I’ve been out of the office all weekend – a once-a-month occurrence), so here’s my overall call-to-action.

Be gentle.

We absolutely have to learn to be gentle with those we love. You can’t keep lobbying for your position and throwing truth-grenades at people without considering their impact. You have to be kinder, more timely, and more emotionally intelligent and aware of their feelings. You don’t get to tell me – or anyone else for that matter – how to live. But you can and you should LOVE us.

Love is patient. That means “long-suffering” – willing to wait patiently – able to accept the burden of seeing someone make the wrong decision(s) so they, themselves, can learn from them.

I was humbled this weekend when I was helping Allie move. I had worked a 12-hour day at CarMax the day before and we were nearing another 12-hour day – this time lifting heavy furniture and boxes up-and-down stairs. Fatigued and selfishly wishing for the hard labor to be over, I found myself impatiently making a remark about how one aspect of Allie’s decor from her room was “weird and ugly.” (Two peoples lives coming together is absolutely beautiful and powerful but it’s really hard sometimes, too. There’s no denying that we love each other deeply and will persevere to the finish line – ’til death do us part. But we’re two different people. And in that moment, I only cared about myself and thought that decoration was weird and lame. And I made the costly mistake of voicing that opinion.) My words hurt her. The item landed itself in the donate-pile.

I found myself humbled and saddened by my selfishness in that moment – having not taken the time to consider her feelings in that scenario before inflicting my point of view on her. There were so many better ways to have handled that. If only I had been gentle. If only I had set my own pride and expectations to the side and taken the time to understand why she liked it and it meant so much to her. Instead, I found myself apologizing more than necessary and being granted kind and expedient forgiveness, because she loves me. Because she is gentle.

I want to be more like her. You should too. Love courageously, but do so gently.

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