Expectations + Desires = Guilt?

Caryn: So, Carla, we haven’t written in a while. What’s your excuse? Here’s mine: Our basement flooded (had to tear up carpet), then we were out of town a night, came back (continued ripping up carpet/cleaning basement), my mom slipped on ice and broke her hip, my two-year-old has some icky bug.

AND, this is the weekend I head to Gifted for Leaderfship’s Synergy conference in Orlando (yay!) so I need to finish prepping for a couple of workshops I’m co-leading (double yay!).

Handily enough, however, one of my workshops is ”The Leader and The Family,”‘ and one of the things I’m doing for it is starting off a conversation about “expectations, desires, and guilt.” I’ve got a couple minutes to give my overview and then kind of open up the talk. Thought I might as well practice here.

My general idea is this: That these three things represent what my first grader calls “a number model” (except with words, which makes it a “word problem,” I guess). Take expectations, add your desires, and more often than not—bam!—you get guilt.

Because so often the expectations for us (either from the world at larger or people much closer) don’t line up with our desires. AND, I believe that if you “delight yourself in the Lord” as the Psalmist writes, those desires are actually God-given. Note what I’m saying here: (The following came after a very mini lectio divina I did with this verse. No major verse study of the ancient Hebrew or anything!) After reading Psalm 27:4, which says, “”Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” and mini-meditating on it for a bit (this means, leaning back in my chair, looking at the ceiling and spacing out on it for a while), I wondered if it’s less about God giving you what your heart desires and more about God giving you the desire (meaning the longing) itself.

So if that’s the case (and it may not be), then those desires are God-given—if we’re delighting ourselves in the Lord. All the more reason NOT to feel guilty when they clash with expectations.

Whatcha think? Will I get laughed out of the room? Railroaded out of Orlando?

Carla: You might experience both, but not because of this. I think you’re on to something. I remember a woman once telling me that her constant prayer was “God, please give me the desires of my heart. If not, please change my heart so I am content with what you give me instead.” That stuck with me.

As usual, I am convinced you’re spying on me. My husband and I have been having a very similar conversation lately. I have been feeling particularly clueless as a mom. I feel like every decision I make has a cost. I can spend time with my 3-year-old, but it’s at the cost of spending time with my 8-year-old. I can listen to my 12-year-old tell me about her day, but at the cost of ignoring the 3-year-old who is begging me to read to her. I can go to Target by myself, but at the cost of losing work time. I can try to chill about the mess in the house at the cost of having more work to do later.

I know I sound all self-pitying here, but at the heart of all of this is not that I feel sorry for myself. It’s that I feel like I can’t be the mom I want to be or the woman I want to be. So, as you so nicely put it, my expectations and my desires are coming together to make a huge helping of guilt (and exhaustion and irritation and frustration and and and).

This is where I get confused. How do I figure out which expectations are too high and which one’s I need to really live up to? How do I know which desires are God-given and which one’s are me trying to be all things to all people?

Caryn: I hope no one asks those questions in the workshop because those are the same ones I have! Revolutionaries: help!

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