Friday, December 26, 2014


"Resolve to Adventure" the Eddie Bauer coupon on the dining room table reads.

What is a resolution other than our stated intention to meet some expectation?

Expectation are heavy burdens.

I once knew two sisters who were as different as night and day.

The older of the two was beautiful and artistic. She could paint, draw, and was incredibly musically gifted. She also really wanted to be an only child. And she made certain everyone, especially her younger sister, knew it.

The younger of the two was an awkward child. Neither beautiful nor artistic, she was your classically fumbling fat kid. And she knew it.

While the older sister made friends everywhere she went and captured entire audiences with her voice and her talents for any and all instruments, the younger often stayed back, away from the fray, and poured herself into her academic studies, as that was where she felt safe and comfortable.

The older sister was often praised for her beauty and her talents; she even earned a full scholarship to an elite institution to study music.

The younger sister was rewarded with high grades, told she could do anything, be anything she wanted, that education was the key to any life she chose, and was otherwise left to her own devices as she seemed to being so well.

The older sister eventually fell in with the "wrong crowd" and began using drugs and alcohol. Despite all the previous accolades, it was the voice of her first serious boyfriend that stuck with her. Told she had no talent and would never amount to anything, she quit high school a few weeks before graduation and proceeded to live down to every societal expectation of a drug addicted, high school drop out, single mother.

The younger sister did "everything right," striving to live up to every expectation placed upon her: graduating from high school, going on to college, and an elite institution for graduate school.

Expectations are heavy burdens.

Living down to the low expectations of others nearly killed the older sister as she fell deeper into drug use and moved from one emotionally and physically abusive relationship to the next. Eventually, she had had enough and began to listen not to the voices of those outside of herself, but to the voice within. She got clean and sober and created a life for herself and her children that, while less than what she might have had with more education and fewer children, was enough and more than anyone had told she had a right to in a very long time.

Expectation are heavy burdens.

While desperately seeeking to live up to the expectations of greatness placed upon her from her earliest years of formal education, the younger sister became perfectionistic and more than a little neurotic. Anxiety plagued her at every turn and she became, in many ways, independent to a fault. She was never one to ask for help, because if she wasn't strong enough to manage the burden on her, or smart enough to find a way to outwit any obstacle, what was she?

When a medical crisis forced her to take a leave of absence from her studies, the younger sister (for just a moment) considered the possibility that suicide would be a better alternative to disappointing everyone who knew her by admitting weakness, defeat, failure.

Expectations are heavy burdens.

I wonder if this is the reason the Christ child - Jesus - grew and became strong. Expected to cause "the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that [would] be opposed so that inner thoughts of many would be revealed" must have worn on Jesus. Yet "he grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him."

How does one carry the burden of expecations of an entire family, society, world? Do we strive to live up to or down to the expectations set for us?

This is the time of year when people are beginning to resolve to meet certain expectations in the coming year. How do we strive to live up to or down to the expectations we set for ourselves? And how much do family and societal pressures influence our New Year's Resolutions?

If I resolve to lose weight in the coming year, am I doing so because I want to be healthier? If that were the case, knowing the power of language as I do, I would likely resolve to eat more vegetables and lean protein, walk more often, and dust off the weights.

Usually, when I resolve to lose weight, it stems from the expectation set for me when I was an awkward, fumbling, fat kid that I would be pretty if, more valuable if, worthy of love if.... I would just lose the extra weight.

If I resolve to do things right, if I read everything I can find, if I seek out the best advice and follow it to the letter, am I doing so because I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well? If that were the csae, I'd likely resolve to give my best effort to the things that matter most.

Usually, when I resort to unreasonably high expectations of myself, aiming to be the best, when nothing apart from something better than absolute perfection will suffice, it stems from a belief that following the law will ensure success, and that I will be successful, valuable, worthy of love if I can do all things right.

Expectations are heavy burdens - or they can be, when they come from the unrelenting voices outside of ourselves. Jesus certainly had unrelenting voices with which to contend. And yet, he was strong and wise; the favor of God was upon him. Different from the rest, Jesus seems to have mastered the art of living up to the expectations set by his Father, god. Jesus listened to and followed the inner voice of the divine that every child of God, every heir to God's kingdom carries within them. And by "every child of God" I mean everyone, no matter what.

Expectations can certainly be heavy burdens. And yet, here we are, at the close of another year, and many are making resolutions - stating their intention to meet some expectation in the coming year.

If you resolve in the coming year to do anything, I hope you'll take time to deeply contemplate the source of those the expectations, and choose wisely the voice you will heed. And remember, regardless of the expectations of others, "the greatest gift you ever give is your honest self."

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