Washington Evening Journal
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It is that time, yet again. Everyone is making their grand plans to lose weight, learn more, and just be better.
With a fresh new year ahead of us, the possibilities seem endless.
For me, these great expectations for the New Year, are daunting.
Absolutely, I should commit to a more consistent bedtime, maintaining a sink free of dirty-dishes, and significantly less screen time.
I know regardless of great the intentions; I am just setting myself up for failure.
Sure, I could go on a diet, but let’s be honest, I’m still going to eat the cake.
Yes, I could learn a new hobby, but in reality, I’m probably already bored.
So, why bother?
The fact is expectations are inevitable at this time of year and throughout all seasons of our lives.
We set expectations for ourselves; others put expectations on us, and society as a whole contains expectation upon expectation.
While setting New Year’s resolutions, making vision boards, and creating daily habits are sometimes useful tools, they should not define us.
Just the other day, I asked my sweet daughter to complete some chores before I got home.
As I entered our house after a long day, I was frustrated to find the expectation unmet.
I could see how guilty she felt, and eventually, my frustrations turned to understanding.
In that moment, I understood those thoughts, because, many times, they have been my own.
Out comes the measuring stick that defines our worth by our contributions.
After carefully reviewing perceived shortcomings, we close our mouths, lower our heads, and set to work to earning our worth.
Repeatedly I believe the lie that I am only as good as the things I accomplish, the work I do, and the growth I exhibit.
The thing is, what I do does not define my worth.
What you do, does not define yours either.
Yes, I would have preferred to come home to completed chores, but that is not my motivation to come home. That is not my motivation to love my sweet girl. That is not why I seek her out and pursue her.
The One who loves me most, does not ask that I earn my keep, either. Friends and family who truly love unconditionally do not ask us to earn their love.
That day, I asked my daughter to cease her work and sit with me.
As I held this young woman close, and tears welled in her eyes, I spoke to her as much as I spoke to myself.
“You don’t have to be perfect,” I told her. “You will never obtain that impossible standard.”
The truth of that statement whispered an echo in my own heart, “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28
“You do not have to earn your keep,” I assured. “It is acceptable to fall-short; we all do.”
Our screw-ups don’t make us unlovable. They give us the opportunity to humble ourselves and remember our own humanity.
If we could do it all, what need would we have for true love?
So, I’ll take ownership of where I’ve fallen short and refuse to allow shame to create a dialogue of unworthiness.
As my daughter began to rest in the assurance of our relationship, not her work, so did I.
Some days, we won’t accomplish what is set before us, and that’s OK.
Some seasons I’ve had high expectations. I was determined to do it all and be exactly who I thought I was meant to be.
Once I reached the end of myself, I found failure surrounded me, and reminded me I can’t do it alone.
As I look ahead, I wonder what realistic expectations look like.
I expect I’ll burn dinner, and it won’t be the end of the world.
I expect I’ll be a terrible friend sometimes, and I’ll humble myself to ask for forgiveness.
I expect I’ll go to bed with my house a mess, my life in shambles, and no idea what direction is up. Even then, I’ll know that tomorrow is a new day.
With that in mind, I resolve, that in 2023, I am defined by unconditional love received and given. No more. No less. Just that.
As I sat with my daughter, it occurred to me, that perhaps, the more security she gained in unconditional love, the more freedom she would experience from the fear of failure over her.
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