Daniel Norton CLI Children’s/Campus Pastor Intern
I got the marriage I needed, not the one I expected. What do I mean by that? I think we all walk into marriage with unrealistic expectations.
No matter how much someone tries to prepare us ahead of time, we still enter marriage with expectations. We’re told to lower our expectations for marriage, but that’s easier said than done.
I got married in July this summer and let me tell you it is harder than I expected it to be. I guess I thought we would love each other and laugh off our differences. I thought we would have nothing but adventure. They say it’s like having a sleepover with your best friend every night. Here’s the deal though, at some point sleepovers end, marriage is every day. In that everydayness of marriage I’m being taught that I have expectations I didn’t even know I had. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that expectations are only good when they are communicated. The one who has taught me all of these lessons so far has been my wife. She gently reminds me that expectations can’t be met when no one knows what needs to be met.
Now I’m wrestling with what to do when expectations, whether communicated or not, aren’t met. I’m beginning to realize that grace is the answer.
Ephesians 2:4 and 5 says,
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Like it or not we all have sinned. We’ve all done things that we weren’t proud of, but Jesus came to earth and leveled the playing field. He said no one had lived up to God’s expectations. We’ve chosen to love things other than God. All of God’s expectations boil down to his desire for us to choose to love him above all else and then love everyone else the way he loves us.
No one has lived up to those expectations. I don’t like to talk about it this way, because it almost feels like God is disappointed in me. I tend to stop the story with I didn’t live up to expectations and therefore when something doesn’t meet expectations the main emotion accompanied with that is disappointment. That’s not the case here though. God rich in mercy made us alive in Christ. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still sinners God covered our lives with grace. This picture of grace covers the space between our actions and God’s expectations. God looks at us and doesn’t assume the worst, but instead assumes the best and cheers us on. Grace is his response to everything we do. Our best efforts are lavished in grace and looked on in favor just as much as our worst results.
I got the marriage I needed not the one I expected. That’s a good thing too. I’m realizing that the one I expected wouldn’t have been any fun. It wouldn’t have been one where mistakes would be met with grace. It wouldn’t have been one where we laugh at the quirks in each other and show grace with one another through the frustrations. It wouldn’t have been a marriage where love was given freely and hope in the future was seasoning each day. I’ve found the marriage I needed to be one full of more life and goodness than I could imagine. I’ve found the marriage I needed to be exceedingly normal. I’ve found the marriage I needed to be my teacher far more than I its leader. I’ve found the marriage I needed to meet every expectation the same way Christ met my life- full of grace. This is why I’m adopting a new phrase for expectations. When expectations aren’t met, grace is the best bet.
(Photo credit: Lulla Photography at lullaphotography.com)