Six Hundred Expectations: on what to do when you can’t keep up



In that day, Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: 
“The Lord is our righteousness.”

– Jeremiah 33:16

Off Balance

My one-year-old is in this crazy stage of exploring and climbing on almost everything, but he’s still getting the hang of his balance. This month, he fell and hit his head. so. many. times.

On a door hinge, on the steps, on the fridge door, on the coffee table, on the gravel, on a pinecone. Some days, I’m convinced he’s actually aiming for the only hard object with a corner in sight.

Man, have I felt like a failure when it comes to protecting him! So far it’s been nothing serious, but I am exhausted from trying to anticipate when this top-heavy toddler is going to tip over and the guilt I feel when I didn’t catch him in time. I have literally found myself saying the words, “One day. Let’s just make it one day without any head trauma, okay?”

It’s been just one of the many contexts where I have been moved to frustrated, irritable words toward myself and my family, and it’s been revealing to me that:

a) I have some unrealistic expectations about my ability to foresee and prevent every injury.

b) Kindness, patience, and self-control aren’t exactly the traits that surface when I’m under stress or pressure.

It turns out, I can be just as off balance as my toddler.

Six Hundred Expectations

This verse in chapter 33 of Jeremiah looks forward to a new way of things for Israel. It hints at a time when God would do something totally unexpected; when he would take these 613 expectations where his people came up short again and again and again, and he would step in.

My eyes flitted across the words, “The Lord IS our righteousness,” and it caused me to pause.

I think I most often function at the level of “The Lord expects/wants/demands my righteousness.” What would change if that thinking shifted to, “The Lord IS my righteousness?”

I would stop trying to be something I constantly fall short of. I would rely on his goodness and strength and kindness instead of trying to be those things myself. I would let these words that sing of Christ stepping in resonate in my soul, and perhaps, for once, I would let him.

Powerless

I read this verse in 1 Corinthians this morning, and it put to words the frustration I often feel day in and day out:

I am called to a way of living that I am powerless to carry out. I am called to participate in a plan that I am totally inadequate and unprepared to bring together.

And I hate butting up against that powerlessness.

He asks me to be kind and self-controlled and to consider others’ interests, to parent firmly and also graciously, to be a respectful and uplifting teammate in my marriage even when I’m under a lot of pressure and feeling frustrated, to raise the funds to do full-time ministry, to move overseas where there’s no Target or Starbucks and the internet is slow and I’m far from my family and the language falls strange on my ears and the state of things is heart-breaking and the work is worth it, but the team is understaffed and the hours are long and unpredictable and to adjust to everything being different and to still be kind and self-controlled and a faithful parent and a respectful wife and

I can’t.

I can’t keep up. I cannot do it all. I cannot do even one of those things.

And I am tired.

Your list probably looks different than mine, but maybe you feel that way, too.

Will You Let Me?

You and I are as powerless to keep up with our lists as any Israelite straining to measure up to those 613 impossible expectations and constantly falling short.

But our Savior says this:

I can. I can do each and every one of those things. You are powerless, but I am all-powerful. “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world, is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

I am your righteousness. I will do this thing. Will you trust me and come along? Will you relax your furrowed brow and breathe and watch me do it? Will you believe that I am bigger than the obstacles and able to heal even the most broken things? Will you let me be powerful and impressive and praiseworthy in your life instead of seeking to be those things yourself?

I am the Lord. I am your righteousness. Will you rest in that or will you keep trying to take my place?

A Prayer For When I Blow It

Oh Lord –

I am not kind. But you are my kindness.
I am not patient. But you are my patience.
I am not wise. But you are my wisdom

When I am unkind, help me to remember, “Oh yes. That’s because that’s what I am like. But that is not what you are like. Jesus, be my kindness right now.” 

When I blow up, help me to say in that moment, “Oh yes, that’s because I am short-tempered. But that is not what you are like. You are patient. You are self-controlled. You are gentle. Jesus, I cannot do what is right without you, because YOU ARE my righteousness.”

I am powerless to live this life the way you ask me to. But your strength works best in my weakest moments. 

So I will just be weak. I will be humble. I will say I’m sorry. I will beg for your help. And I will watch and see what you will do with a heart that is willing to step out of the way and give you room to work.

Heavenly Peace? when there’s no rest for the weary

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.'”

-Mark 6:31


I like this verse. Can I get an “amen” for the take-a-break verse? Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile. Good. plan. Jesus. 

He’d been serving all day. He hadn’t eaten. The people were non-stop. It was time for a pause. He got in a boat. He sailed away. Up to this point, I’m tracking with him. Yep, follow Jesus’ example. When you get too tired of the people, go get some rest so you can have a fresh start! 

But then.

Then the people figured out his plan and ran ahead to meet him on the other side. I read the verse and my insides wailed for him. 

No, no, no, no, just give the man ONE SECOND, you needy, annoying people!!!

But that is not how Jesus responded. 

This chapter in Mark is famous. It’s the one that describes how Jesus took one boy’s lunch and fed 5000 families. But I think there’s another miracle in this story – one that happened so swiftly and so subtly it’s often overlooked:

“Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them…”

-Mark 6:34

The needs were so constant he couldn’t even get a meal in. They followed him everywhere on foot, so he arranged to travel by boat to get away from them. He wanted a quiet place and rest. He got a crowd of people asking for more. 

He stepped off the boat, recognized his plan was ruined, and in that moment of realization, his heart cared for them more than it cared for his break. 

The Greek translates it this way: “He was moved in the inward parts to feel compassion for them.”

He moved toward them. And not just outwardly. 

I often do what is necessary externally, but pull away on the inside. I sigh and shake my head and move toward the needs before me, but with a frustrated and resentful heart. It was not so with him.

Jesus didn’t plan to endlessly meet needs. He recognized that he needed rest. He chose to pause ministry and step away to recharge. But when that pause was interrupted – he was willing for it to be. When the boat ride was all the break he got, he took it and moved on, without a fit, without any harsh words. And with a gracious heart, he turned toward the people and the work before him, instead of back to the idea of the rest he had been hoping for.

Lord,

Work this miracle in me. Give me wisdom to plan for rest, but grace to receive the work I’m given when it comes unexpectedly. Train my heart to accept the boat-ride breaks with thankfulness and to readily feel compassion for the people you place before me in those interruptions that make me want to retreat.

Help me to see that, in the same way, you are moved with compassion for me. 

After all, this time of year is all about remembering how glad I am that your heart decided to move toward my need.

Tired Hands: on getting a grip when you feel defeated

This week, Cody pointed out that he has been observing a lot of self-condemnation in the way I talk about my day, and I was challenged to dig into these statements and decide how much was truth.

From how the baby napped to forgetting the espresso maker was running because I got interrupted; from my reaction to the dirty dishes to my inner wrestlings over cooking dinner again, I tend to observe how I walk through each experience and label it as another failure.

I’m always trying to improve, so I didn’t see a real problem with focusing on what could go better, but I’m learning that when that evaluation leaves me defeated, I may be listening to the wrong voice.

“For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to Earth – the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the lamb and by their testimony.”

Revelation 12:11-12

I have an enemy that drags up the past, day and night, in hopes of discouraging and defeating me; but the blood of Jesus Christ has paid for it all. There is zero outstanding debt. The accuser is the one who is defeated, not me.

The word “testimony” in this verse comes from the greek word martyrias which also means “evidence” or “record.” 

The enemy is defeated by the very record he tries to throw in my face. 

Because of the cross, the enemy accuses, but the record is clean.

Regardless of how I feel about myself, the record is clean, and God is not asking me to dwell on how I should have done better. I will never on this earth perform perfectly. Can I be content with God’s ability to forgive, forget, and use me in spite of my failures? Can I believe him when he says I am free to move on?

In a thousand situations, I would like to take my hindsight and have a re-do. In many others, I don’t like how it went, but I don’t actually know what I should have done or said instead. I have not walked perfectly, and I will not walk perfectly, but the record is clean.

God’s desire for me is to walk in freedom, confident of what he is able to do rather than carrying stress over whether I will ever get it right. He is NOT the one asking that question. 

“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong…Look after each other so that no one fails to receive the grace of God…Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.”

Hebrews 12:12, 18, 25

When I become aware of my falling and my weakness, may I learn to listen to the Lord when he speaks.

Because he does not speak of grace and hope and strength and then say, “but these do not apply to you; these are for people facing harder things, these are for people who haven’t screwed up.”

His grace is for every weakness. His hope is for every struggle. His strength is for every hardship.

He does not make me aware of my issues to make me feel disqualified but so that he may infuse my hollowness with his fullness and brace the joints that would give out and encourage my heavy heart and my tired hands to take a new grip. His instructions mark out the path ahead, not to intimidate me, but to help me press on with sure footing. 

His desire is not that I would never, ever fail; but that I would never, ever fail to receive his grace. Grace he is always holding out, like a steady hand when I’m walking with a limp, like a fresh, solid grip when my hands are tired. 

Grace that says: 
“The enemy accuses, but the record is clean.
Don’t listen to him. Don’t even listen to yourself. Listen to me.”