Grieving isn’t just done at funerals, it can also be a helpful part of Parenting, Singleness, Marriage, sometimes even our sex lives.
Join Josh and Kit as they discuss expectations and grief. Unearthing where our expectations are too high, identifying things not in our control, and grieving what we didn’t even know we expect from ourselves, others and God.
Ruth Haley Barton – Invitation to Retreat
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So I have this, we’re going to talk about something today. It’s, it’s, it’s kind of hard to it’s to launch us into, but I think there’s no other way of saying, like, we’re gonna talk about grieving expectations. And so I think about like, my wife and I, when we first started taking weekends away with to visit either her family or my family, or a week with either my family or a family, when things that we we started to do, we started realizing that we did not have different, we did not have the same expectations about how the trip was going to go, we didn’t have the same goals of what we wanted out of the trip. And so sometimes we leave the weekend or leave the time with either one of our families, feeling really, really disappointed with what happened even though it was a pretty good weekend. And so we we started this practice of on our way to those weekends away. And so now we do it whenever we take any kind of vacation, we talk to each other about what our expectations are, we talked about some of the things that we’re hoping for in the time. And what that does pretty quickly as it unearths where our expectations are pretty overboard. Like that’s not likely to happen. It identifies some things that are not in our control. And then we do some other work with that, that I can get another time. But anyway, Kitt and I are here today, we just want to talk we were talking offline, like maybe other people need to hear this like, so kid, what would you say is important about grieving expectations? Why are we talking about this today?
I think because we have so many that we don’t even know we have, you know, we we think oh, you know, gosh, you know, life is hard. And I’m not sure why. But I’m always disappointed. And we don’t realize that Oh, that’s because you have we have so many expectations about how things should go. You know, marriage should be like this and not like this, and children and parenting should be like this and not like that, like everything. I mean, literally everything. And so
well, just a positive. So it’s and when you say should it’s not always even necessarily like a moral imperative, like you should be doing it this way as opposed that way. Sometimes it’s just what we think would be better. It’s kind of our gut, like, I always kind of imagined it would be Yeah, I always wanted it to be that way.
Yes, very true. And because we do romanticize a lot of things, you know that, including marriage and children, you know, and we don’t know that we are until we’re in it, and then we realize that we have all these expectations that have set us up to be disappointed.
Yeah. And so you mentioned marriage and kids, it can also certainly be it can be jobs, it can be the place that you live in Shep’s. It can be Yeah, I mean, every you name it, your financial situation, the way our country is, and go the way we thought that election would go with the way that we thought the weather is gonna be today. I mean,
yeah, really, it really is, I think, across the board kind of thing. And I, I got really in touch with this in my own life. But then also working with clients, you know, it’s just, it’s a theme, we just, we don’t know that we’re set up with expectations. And so we’re always disappointed, and that’s a very hard way to live, always be disappointed.
And so, so to identify our expectations, and then and then to do something about them, is isn’t is key? I mean, I think like we can we, you know, I think there are a lot of relationships that where people end up fighting all the time, not realizing that they’re living under these expectations, that that what they’re really dealing with is the disappointment. This is not the way I wanted it to be right. But why why die to the expectation? Why Why not just fight for it? Why not to try to, you know, make it happen?
Well, again, you know, we’re talking about trying to accept what is not force it, manage it, control it, like that’s exhausting, you know, that there is a certain amount of just acceptance, that’s a that’s a very powerful thing. But that doesn’t mean you’re complacent. It means that you’re accepting what is, you know, the brokenness of reality, the way things are you you’re able to accept that and not be always wishing it were different like that, again, that’s a terrible way to live to always be wanting it to be different. And the thing is, having no expectations or trying to have less expectation is not the same as not having hope. They’re very different expectations or like specific things and if they don’t happen, then you’re disappointed hope is that you’re always like looking for you know, for the best and wanting the best and but they set you up very differently. One is freedom and the other one is control
and that add to that so in addition to hope there is also the route we have, we do have human agency so God has given us some love have power over life and over our decisions. And so there are things that we can do, whether it’s specific actions that we take, exercises that we do practices that we undertake prayer, where we’re seeking something better than what we currently know. But we hold those not with it with an entitled kind of, you know, a hard fist that says, If I don’t get this, then x, y or z, then I’m disappointed, then God isn’t real, then my life is a mess, then this weekend stinks, then you’re not the one for me mean whatever, you know, fill in the blank, as opposed to, I think in place of expectation, we can have an open hand that says I have some expectancy, that God is going to do something, I’m going to work towards that better. And, but there’s a lot that’s not up to me a lot. I don’t know how to control and I’m going
to hold that with an open hand. And there’s some good language around to frame this up. That’s helped me a lot from Ruth Barton’s book invitation to retreat. And it’s this idea of willingness and willfulness. So the willfulness is the expectations, you know, the willfulness is well, this is what how life is going to have to go, this is the outcome I want, whether it’s about your child or your marriage, or your job, and you have your eyes fixed on that outcome. As long as you have your eyes fixed on that outcome, you don’t have your eyes fixed on Jesus. And so you’re missing whatever Jesus is doing over here, you’re you’re you, you’re convinced yourself that you know, you know that your expectation is right, and that your satisfaction and well being about your life is going to come through that and that only, and then you you get disappointed, because likely, God may have a very different plan. And it may include some pain, and it may include some difficulty. But if you take your eyes off the outcome, and really go back to fixing our eyes on Jesus, which is what Scripture tells us to do, then we will see things we wouldn’t otherwise see.
I think I think what you’re describing too, is the unearthing, we talked to this in a previous podcast on earthing our idolatries. That when we have an expectation that’s not met, and it tanks us and it’s, you know, things go sideways for us or we shake our fist at God, it’s pretty good indicator that we had something misaligned with our affections. And so I think this can happen and I’m not pointing fingers anyway, this is my life. But whether it’s son or daughter not making decisions we want, it’s, I’m still single and I’ve been obedient and serving the Lord, why am I still single, I always had to be married by now. Waiting for sex until marriage, and then sex being really difficult in marriage or something going wrong in a sexual relationship with a spouse and and then that’s not what I expected. A marriage, a marriage that didn’t work out a marriage where either spouse was unfaithful, or they’re just difficulties that no one could predict the son or daughter who was born with it with some type of medical challenge. I mean, you name it, I think in the areas that we work a lot of times, like the sexual struggle that’s just not going away. I have been doing all everything I know to do. And still I’m keep falling. Why is that? Why am I still falling? I know. So many men and women who have wrestled with same sex attractions who have prayed and prayed and prayed that those would go away. And certainly for some, they experienced some some change in that area. But for others, there’s if they’ve been held in that as an expectation, and it’s still there in some way more than they wanted, then then it throws them for a loop. And so they’re, they’re holding on to this expectation, instead of holding on to Christ, what’s the story you’re leading into? Yeah. And again, I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, I can see so many ways to do this in my life, and, and I kind of turn really ugly when these things surface in my life. And people around me my family can certainly point that Yeah, he does. But so what’s so in as an alternative to to holding on those expectations? We’re talking about grieving expectations grieving when our expectations are not met. Yeah. And so let’s talk about that. What does it mean to grieve our expectations?
Well, you know, like, in the case of marriage, you know, and I know, my husband and I have talked a lot about this, because, you know, our marriage didn’t look like we thought, you know, we didn’t we’d never been married. So what did we know?
We didn’t know, when I saw a TV. It wasn’t this way.
Exactly. You know, like, I remember doing a teaching once on an emotional dependency and how we’re all raised, you know, with Disney movies, you know, and our principal COMM And all the songs we listened to, you know, they’re not romantic. They’re actually like, I can’t live without you. You know, they’re like, they set us up. So. So you know, pretty early on, we were like, wow, this is not what I expected. This, you know, first of all, you’re really different than me, and I don’t think I like you know, how you are sometimes. And so we set about, you know, expecting that they’re going to change, and we’re going to change, and so, a lot of times, so that’s been true in our marriage, and people who come in, they’re really struggling because they have all these expectations, all these unmet expectations and they’re living with disappointment. And so as I’ve had to do in my life and my husband, as well, and with clients, I’ll say, you know, I think I think you probably have to let that you have to die to what you expected your marriage to be. So you can embrace what it is, it’s again, that outcome thing, if you have your eyes fixed on it, then you you’re just so driven by, you know what you want it to be, and you kind of have to just like we have to die to our false self, or our true self can’t really be born. We have to grieve and let these expectations of our marriage or other things die so that we can, the new thing can be born.
I heard this quote, and I think you’ll understand the connection. It’s a little different context. But the quote said, The learned are sufficiently prepared for a world that that no longer exists, while the learners will inherit the earth. That’s great. And I think in this context, what we’re saying is like, when I know the way this is supposed to go, I know who you’re supposed to be. I know how this is supposed to work, it’s done, settled, and it doesn’t work out that way. That I’m I’m living in a world that I’m not prepared for. But when I when I can walk with an open hand, and continue to like, learn Jesus, what do you have for me, and this is not what I expected. That’s not what I wanted. I that’s not how I want to feel at this stage in the game. What do you have for me in this, I think, then, then we’re ready to find that there’s life, there is something new. He’s like, God, God never hits a cul de sac. He’s never it’s never a dead end, like, Hey, sorry, I know, it didn’t work out. But I guess you’d have to live the rest of your life just sucking it up. Because, yes, always life always life.
And I think that’s really, really good. You know, this idea that we’re, you know, how do we learn? How do we learn to accept, because what happens, what happened to me was, when I didn’t when things weren’t happening the way I wanted them to in my marriage, I became judgmental. And I became controlling, and I wasn’t able to, you know, see Greg for his uniqueness and who he was, and vice versa. And so you know, if you can, like, if you can think about it as this learning, you know, this openness to Oh, that’s who you are, you aren’t like me? Oh, well, let me let me learn about that. Let me learn about that, and how, how that can be something that can benefit me. So you know, my husband and I are really, really different people. And at first, we’re like, well, this is trouble. And then we realize, Oh, this is actually awesome. Because we are going to learn so much from each other. And and since we kind of came to this realization in our marriage, instead of being disappointed all the time, we’re actually like, wow, there’s another place we’re learning about each other again. Yeah.
So some of the things that come to mind for me, like, we’re realizing expectation and needing to die to that or needing to let that die, or, I mean, I, it is interesting, because I think there’s so many places in Scripture, that talk about crucifying death, the old man, I mean, those kinds of things, but we rarely talk about the reality like, yeah, you know, whatever the death is, even if the death of something that wasn’t God’s best they can, there can still be grief, that can still be sadness that comes. And so absolutely, things I want to just encourage all of us, myself included, is to just let ourselves feel sad about how our expectations that aren’t being met, like naming them, I had wanted this, and I don’t have it, and I don’t doesn’t look like I will have it. And I’m sad to see that go. But beginning beginning to just let ourselves feel that no, kid, I want to pose this question to you, which is not fair, because I just said what I said, but what’s the difference between that and just wallowing in the expectation, you know what I mean? Like, I can just, you know, if I like, if I’d always wanted to be to be married, and I’m single and I’m like, Oh, I’m just gonna grieve that I mean, I, you know, we know people that are just they just kind of stuck in their sadness Western been grieving, an unmet expectation, and wallowing in the sadness of the unknown expectation
with grieving, I think, you know, you really are bringing God into it and you’re allowing yourself to let go of things to work through some some sadness you’re not denying you’re sad you’re actually allowing yourself to be sad. And you’re also like, learning to let it go learning to not have those expectations trusting God bringing him into it. We’re wallowing is just kind of circular ruminating thinking and continuing to just, you know, let disappointment just make you bitter and disappointed. One has a sort of a process of intentionality and the other one is kind of getting stuck. And that’s not to say that grieving or or in being in process of These things, it’s never it never ends. Like we’re still very much in process. We still have hard moments. But it’s but rather than be fighting it, it’s like, okay, here’s an opportunity to grieve and to bring God into it and to kind of process it
in anything. Because in mind, as you’re saying, that is, the words that come to mind is letting go of my right to whatever the expectation is. And I think when I’m wallowing in whatever the I wanted this, I expected this, I think sometimes even we have a little bit of a twisted theology that says, Well, I’ve done all these things. So Shouldn’t I be at this place? I have this Yes. Shouldn’t my son or daughter be like this? Shouldn’t my you know, my prince charming? Or princess charming? If that’s such a thing? Like, okay, you know, come to be shouldn’t be over this problem yet? Should I have changed yet? Should I have the house yet? Shouldn’t I mean all those things? Should I have the recognition I wanted the job I want? I think wallowing is still holding on to the to some kind of sense whether it’s spoken or not, I have a right to this because of what I’ve lived through. And I think, relinquishing that right is a part of grieving and saying I don’t have this, and I’m letting it go, I’m saying goodbye to it. And again, that’s like, as you said, That’s not, that doesn’t mean it will never happen. It just means I’m accepting the current reality as it is and choosing to step into this day, as it is, as opposed to demanding that, you know, being upset and kind of angry or sad all day, because this day isn’t that day, this isn’t what I wanted it to be.
And, and it is there really comes a time in everybody’s life, if we’re willing to to go there, where we do realize, oh, wow, I really had a completely different expectation of what reality is what my reality was going to be in my marriage and my parenting and this and that. And so at some point, you have to come to a pretty deep, profound realization that reality is broken. And we have to learn to embrace that. Even forgive it, even embrace it, you know, not that it’s like, because we know that there’s, this is not all there is we know that there is a place where things will be hold, but right now we’re in between, you know, we’re still facing the reality of, of our brokenness and the brokenness of this world. And so to be able to, like, I think, if I’m shocked if I’m like, Oh, I didn’t, I didn’t know the reality was broken, then I’m constantly going to be in a state of, you know, being unsettled. But if I’m like, yeah, that’s, you know, there is there’s this reality that it’s broken. Yeah. And learn to, you know, it doesn’t mean life is terrible at all. In fact, you know, life can be beautiful in those in some of that brokenness.
So we’ve named like, the expectations of ourselves, expectations of others, usually others who are close to us or have some kind of influence on how our day to day life goes, expectations on reality, I think we’d also have to include in this our expectations of God, yeah, like, what God is going to be like, how he’s going to move in my life, how he’s gonna, how he’s going to speak to me when he’s going to speak to me how he’s going to help me when he’s going to help me. And I think that a lot of us, maybe all of us, in life, it’s at different points are going to experience these places where God I, I thought, knowing what I know about you, knowing what I’ve read about you, knowing what I believe about you, I thought that you would have done this and you didn’t, I thought you would be here and show up in this way. And you didn’t. I thought you told me that you’re going to do this, and you didn’t. And I think grieving the loss of those expectations, too, with open hands before our sovereign God who knows best. And asking him and I think the Scripture is full of examples of people who were in relationship with God grieved with him about it, talk to him about it, sometimes yelled at them about it like what? You know why? why might you know Jesus on the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I think every saint has walked through seasons of God is not doing in this moment. What I wished thought expected him to do. And those I think, can be some of the most difficult I mean, I think for me, they can because they, they they go down to the heart of my center my this is the solid ground underneath my feet and it just feels like it shook.
You know, it’s interesting, isn’t it, you know, if we don’t allow ourselves to, to be in the place of grieving, a place of desperation, really, you know that this is just not working out the way I thought it was. This is just causing me great pain. I’ve got such such sadness and disappointment, and I don’t know what to do with it. You know, if we don’t, like cry out to God and allow him into those places, get to the place first of all, honestly, allow ourselves to get there and then And then invite God into it. Because it’s only then that we taste really some profound sacredness where he says, you know, in some way he lets you know, but but I am your hope. I am, I am the hope. And then you, you receive that, in a way, it’s pretty hard to even put into words you know, but then you you you experience the reality that he really is, he really is what you need, he really is the sacred place that you can go when and, and anything can be swirling around you and you can find hope there.
close with this image as your as you’re talking that’s coming to mind is the as the as the Prophet who’s in this difficult difficult season is is in hiding the cleft of rock and the Lord says I’m going to pass by and there are these different storms and powerful things that happen. And scripture say he’s not in that. And then this quiet whisper happens and this is this is God’s whisper of God. And reminds me of that scene in Forrest Gump. The old movie Forrest Gump is Captain Dan, who has lost his legs and in the war is just railing and raging against God and and it’s climbed somehow climbed the mast of the ship, and is it going through this lightning storm, this hurricane is screaming his lungs out yelling at God. And then when the storm is over, he’s he’s at peace he’s at he’s at peace. And I think there’s it’s almost like a parallel, or parable of that of that story in Scripture and I. And I think the reason we The reason we grieve is not to get to a place that is less than what we’d always hoped for. It’s not to let go of what we’d always hoped for, and settle for less, and kind of say, Well, I guess I just have a second class or third class or fourth class life. The reason we grieve our expectations is so we can have more life, more color, more freedom, more joy than we ever thought we could. And that’s the reason we let go of our expectations. That’s the reason we grieve them. Yeah. So Kitt, would you just pray for those listening, pray for us to I mean, even as we’re talking, I’m like, man, I, you know, I think I need this as much as I’m saying any of these things. But just when you just pray a prayer for all of us as we’re walking through this.
Lord, we are so aware, right in this moment, that you are our God of hope. And then when all else is swirling and failing, you never fail us. And that isn’t just something that we say. It’s something that we profoundly believe. And I pray for each one of us that we could take a moment with you and and say, Lord, where am I? Where am I living out of expectation and deep disappointment? How do I grieve? what I expected so that I can embrace what is how do we invite you into that, Lord? And how do we experience you as our hope? Lord, we know you are. Help us to open ourselves to that reality. In Jesus name, amen.
Amen. If you’re listening and walking through any of this in any of the areas we’ve talked about, or something close to it, we’d love to walk with you and pray with you. Thanks.
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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