Sunday, November 2, 2014

the dirty word


It's a word of death.

Death to relationships.

A close friend spoke some hard truth to me seven or eight years ago, while I was living in California. At the time, my feelings hurt because she hadn't had much time to spend with me, and I felt like maybe I cared more about her friendship than she did mine. It's not a good feeling to feel like you're in an uneven relationship, is it? And in wisdom she warned me that those unspoken expectations I had in my mind about what she "had to do" if she was a "real friend" would kill the friendship quickly. She didn't stop there. She went further and warned me that she noticed I had placed expectations over relationships with everyone in my life- my parents, my family, my friends, my husband. All of them had certain unmentioned bars, so to speak, that they had to achieve or else I was convinced they didn't really love me.

I don't know where that came from....that scale I set that let me protect isolate my heart. I don't have traumatic stories from my childhood or bad breakup stories from my youth. But still they were there. Stealing relationships and threatening to cause me to become an island unto myself.

It's because those words convicted my heart so strongly that they have stayed with me through the years. I still see them creep into my heart, if I'm not guarding it vigilantly. And I see them in others. Because I'm looking for those ugly expectations.... the dirty laundry list of made-up tasks to prove a person's/relationship's worth.

And every time I identify them, they make me ANGRY. I would argue it's a just anger.

Expectations are so destructive! They take relationships and remove the grace. In the devastated ruins of expectations, there isn't room for understanding of busy seasons of life, or differences in how people relate, or favorite methods of communication. Instead there is a refusal to accept love that isn't being shown in just the right way.

Or not enough.

Or not in time.

But where expectations kill, grace breathes life. When those imaginary lines we draw in the sand for others to prove they value us are erased, there is understanding. Understanding for what? For busy schedules. For different love languages. For failed attempts, time after time after time.

What if, when the phone call doesn't come, we respond with a reiteration of our knowledge that they still indeed value us because years can't be erased by days. Or weeks. Or even other years.

What if, when they stayed late at work "again," we pointed to our hearts the love notes that were left, or the favorite candy that was brought home, or the broken drawer that was fixed? And we realize that we all show love in different ways.... and that one way isn't better than another.

What if, instead of assuming what they must do in other relationships, we look for the ways that our relationship is special and unique to us because we are unique and no two relationships can be alike... and different love doesn't mean unequal love.

Wouldn't that change things? Wouldn't that make the load lighter?

Every time I am greeted with grace in a relationship, I am renewed in my determination to replace expectations with grace.

I'm still horrible at grace. In every sense of the word.

But at least that gives me something to work on.

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