By Fr. Jake Greiner
I grew up on a farm, which meant that I was constantly outside helping my family with different chores and tasks around the farm. As I grew and gained experience, my parents had changing expectations about what chores and tasks I should be able to accomplish with or without their supervision and assistance. Therefore, life on the farm was filled with the constant process of trying to meet my parents’ expectations on doing chores and tasks around the family farm.
My parents are two of the most loving and caring people I have ever met, so they strived to make sure that their expectations matched my abilities. However, it was clear at a young age that God was not calling me to be a farmer. I do not have enough space to tell about the stitches, broken equipment, the lost income and other farm stories that led to this conclusion. My parents’ expectations had to adjust for my abilities. I joke with people that I did not have enough faith to become a farmer, so the Lord called me to the priesthood. Probably the truth of the matter is that I would starve as a farmer because my gifts and talents are better suited for any other job.
These experiences were formative in my life because I knew that meeting people’s expectations was important, especially when people care for you. Nothing is more rewarding than being recognized for a job well done and experiencing success, and our lives are definitely informed and guided by these realities. However, I also learned that the world won’t end if we fail to meet expectations. When we fail, we can learn valuable lessons about ourselves. In fact, failure is sometimes a better teacher than success because we learn the expectations are simply that — outcomes that we look forward to experiencing.
God’s expectation for each of us is to know, love and serve him and our neighbor. We can accomplish this expectation in so many ways that success is almost guaranteed if we put in the time and effort. I would imagine that many of us would experience freedom and healing if we would simply focus on loving and serving God as the primary expectation that governed and guided our lives. However, a good first step is acknowledging what expectations are driving us in our lives. Then we ask that the Lord help us to understand how we are to live in light of these realities.
I also want to give one more important reminder: many expectations placed upon us are truly unrealistic and, by definition, we could not accomplish them even if we spent every waking moment pursuing them. If these realities exist in your life, they will be the first expectations that you need to let go of in your life.
The most important thing in our lives is not about meeting expectations from other people, but allowing God’s love and mercy to guide our lives. We are not going to get rid of all of the different sources of expectations in our lives, but the more important thing is deciding how we are going to live our lives in light of all of the expectations placed upon us. In light of this tension, our faith becomes more important. Our faith allows us to honestly look at all of the expectations put upon us; then we assess how we should live our lives. This is why we must constantly pray about meeting expectations and allowing our faith to inform these realities.
(Fr. Greiner is pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville and Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher.)