Disappointing People

BY GRETCHEN RONNEVIK

I have always felt I have a knack for disappointing people.  It sometimes feels like everyone in my life thinks I'm more capable than I am.  Five years into my chronic pain, I think my family is starting to catch onto my limitations.  I still disappoint my kids all the time.  That's probably true of many parents.  I can't do all things, nor should I.

Still, others make expectations I can't keep based off of assumptions that aren't true.  For instance, we homeschool, so the assumption is we have a very flexible schedule.  We don't.  I have six kids, one of them a toddler, the other five school-aged, all at different levels.  We deal with ADHD in one kid, extreme giftedness in another, two teenaged kids in sports, and 2 kids who still nap.  I run a tight ship.  It's a role I've grown into like my children get taller.

I am in charge of my family’s calendar.  I decide what goes on the schedule, and what stays off.  If there is any flex in our schedule, I try to save that for my husband’s very unpredictable work schedule.  I try to reserve time so he can see the kids in the cracks of time he has available. 

I try to accommodate as much as I can, but I have not grown the superpower of being able to create more time.  Sometimes I think that would be a cool superpower.  Other times, I think that would be the death of all things good.  I'm thankful for the limitations of time sometimes.  Especially for an event I don't want to go to.

I've learned to schedule in "grace time" as I call it.  With six kids at various levels, I cannot plan my schedule so tight that it depends on all of them doing exactly what they should do at all times for it to work.  I cannot plan for perfection.  I have to plan to do a lot of correcting.  I have to pad the sides of various events.  I have to plan that that toddler might have a meltdown, that that child will want to argue on whether or not they can go home with a friend, or plan that they won’t come when I call them because they are just goofing off. 

I need to plan in discipleship time with them, and here's a hint: it doesn't fit into a neat box every day.  It's when we walk, when we go shopping, when we are in a math lesson.  Discipleship moments happen when we get up and when we go to bed.  I have to plan in a buffer so that when they need to be taught, I can pause and teach them, and our whole day won't unravel if I take that time.

People don't always understand that.  My house that holds eight humans doesn't turn on a dime.  We have some special needs going on at home too, and sometimes we have to say no, and not give a reason why.

Sometimes I disappoint people.  A lot of times I disappoint people.  Sometimes I feel like I’m a walking disappointment.

I struggle with anger towards people who are disappointed by me.  I am doing the best I can.  How dare they put that expectation on me?  Where is their GRACE? Don’t they care about me, or do they just care about getting me to do what they want me to do?

There’s the expectation to be serving in the church this way or that way, the expectation to have my kid in this activity or that activity, the expectation to teach my kid this or teach them that.  Expectations feel so overreaching for what God is working in my life. 

I get angry.  I struggle most when my thoughts start spinning late at night, and I revisit the hurt over and over again, and I can’t make it stop so I can sleep.  I have studied forgiveness extensively, as I work through my anger, which I assume is rooted in pride.  I always try to reconcile when I can.  But I have to forgive often, even when reconciliation is out of my reach. 

Sometimes I think I've gone through the whole forgiveness process, and have arrived in a state of peace, but forgiveness for me often feels like I'm weeding my garden.  I forgive and another offense pops up.  Sometimes I have trouble keeping weeds out of my garden, literally and metaphorically.  It's a never-ending season.

I've studied how Jesus lets us forgive using his death as justice.  I've read how unending God's forgiveness is towards me.  I've learned how I'm in no place to judge others for repeatedly hurting me.  I repeatedly hurt back.  I need forgiveness for myself for so many things, both known and unknown.

I was praying the other day about this anger of mine that is a constant struggle.  With a weary heart, I called out to God loudly: “How long must I deal with anger rising up in me?”  It was triggered, once again, by someone being mad at me for not meeting an expectation that was out of my hands.

God’s Spirit stirred inside me, and I felt a calling to confess.  I routinely bring my anger before the Lord, but this was new.  This was a place in my heart I had not considered before.

I needed to confess my idolatry. 

I cared so much what people thought of me, that not having their approval, their blessing, spun me completely around.

I cared way more about what they thought of me than what God thought of me.  I deeply cared more about their opinion.

And what does God think of me?  When God sees me, he sees the works of Christ that I wear.  When God looks at me, it's through the lens of Jesus.  When God looks at me, he forgives, and he draws near.  When God sees me, he brings me into reconciliation without hesitation.

But what did that matter to me?  This person over there thinks something about me that isn't true.  That mattered more to me.  I figured, of course God loves me.  I take that for granted. Take it as a given. And I seek greater things… like other people thinking well of me.

When I faced my sin, I was immediately brought to relief, knowing that the cross covered that too.  Oh the peace!  I didn't know what was troubled in me, but when I confessed my sin, he was faithful and just to forgive it, and what peace that was!  I was so grateful he had identified the problem. I was blind to (the law), so it could be dealt with (the gospel).

For the first time, I realized that my anger problem stemmed from an idolatry problem.  I already knew about the pride.  I didn’t recognize the misplaced worship.  Getting to the root of the weed is helpful.

Sometimes I feel like the Christian walk is a process of God speaking this truth into my life so I could say:

“Hey look, I see another sin against God’s law. Yeah, he died for that one too.  I could never disappoint him.  He had no unhealthy expectations on me.”

Jesus planned to die for me, did die for me, and his death will always apply to my sin. 

That is his expectation.  That is the level of his acceptance.

Even since the Garden of Eden, God did not ask for us to be god-like.  He wanted us to trust that he was God, and that was enough.

Every new discovery of yet another sin isn’t a disappointment to him.  It’s yet another opportunity to point to the fact that his grace covers even that, which leads to awe and worship.  It's living in a never-ending path to worship that cannot be foiled.  It's living in a constant state of being renewed.

Gretchen is a mom to 6 hilarious kids from toddler to teenager. She works as a homeschool mom, writer, and tutor to middle school kids in classical studies.  She has published an e-course for mentors in intergenerational ministry called Gospel Mentoring and works to equip women’s ministries in churches from falling into legalistic patterns that compromise the message of the gospel.