Healthy Soul/Lessons Learned/Living Out Your Faith/My Life/Teen Life

Expectations vs. Reality: Letting God Into Imperfection

If you asked me the question, “Rachel, what would you be the patron saint of?” My answer, undoubtedly, would be: “Patron saint of people who spill… everything.”

No joke… I’m 99% positive I’m single-handedly at fault for breaking like half of my household’s dishes.

I’ve always struggled with this particular attribute, and it’s been a long journey of accepting the fact that some “graceful, non-spilling gene” isn’t going to appear overnight (may have totally prayed about that once). For this type-A girl, it’s so easy to feel out of control. But, the funny thing about feeling out of control is that “not having it all together” is a reality for more than the elite few of us who are clumsier than a panda in a tree.

We all, at some point in our lives, can feel like we lose control over things — we can feel like our expectations never quite add up to the outcome of whatever we’re dealing with.

Usually, it’s not as bad as it Seems

I’ve had to give up control many times over in my life, but perhaps my favorite story happened one late night a few years ago. I had climbed into bed, tired after a long day, and realized food was still cooling on the countertop. For fear of a dog thief in the night, I sleepily wandered back out to the kitchen, and in the transfer between counter and fridge — a mere three feet — I lost my grip (and subsequently, cool). The glass container slipped out of my hands and shattered all over our tile floor.

Now, this is the natural place in the story to tell you that I realized it was out of my control, held my head high and moved on, right? No. I immediately sunk my shoulders and started crying. Seriously, I was so over my inability to keep dishes from breaking.

He is Right There Beside us

My husband responded to the loud crash in our kitchen as anybody with ears would have, and his reaction was truly the best. He took one look at me, said, “Rachel it’s okay,” and, although I protested, whining that “I literally can never avoid making a mess!” this patient, wonderful man responded with a gesture I will never forget. He immediately bent down and started cleaning up the pieces of broken glass.

God Works Within our Reality

It is amazing to think of the many moments of my day I allow frustration over feeling like I’m not in control to get the better of me. I often allow my expectations for perfection to affect my attitude, and ultimately my gratitude.

What are those areas of your life you are holding on to expectations that might not live up to reality? For me, it’s usually a relationship: I want the last say in an argument, or I’m holding on to a friendship that is unhealthy. Sometimes, it’s a situation: I plan out the perfect gesture and it just ends up being a big mess instead. I set unrealistic goals for myself in the classroom or on the playing field and instead find myself defeated by my work or nursing my bruises.

Or maybe it’s something a little deeper than that: dealing with my parent’s divorce, constant drama with my friends, feeling like I am never doing enough or feeling like I never AM enough. No matter what I do.

Often though, what feels the messiest, is my relationship with God – those days I want prayer to be perfect but never feel like I have the “right” words to say.

As great as goals are and seeking for ourselves an intended outcome, life happens. And, the beautiful thing about this wild life is that God works within our mess. Like my husband that night, God prefers to enter into our honest moments of trepidation rather than seek a way to greet us beyond our facades.

Jesus cared more about comforting people in their reality than He did about following the neat little social norms of society. He touched the leper (Matthew 8:3), forgave the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6)… He took on humanity (Philippians 2:7)! He didn’t just enter into the mess we made and tried to clean it up with us, He literally took it all upon Himself (Matthew 11:28-30).

That is how much He loves us.

What to do When it all Feels Like too Much

Sometimes though, we need a practical game plan to help us deal with stressful situations, by allowing God to take control. If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by something you’re dealing with, without knowledge of what to do, I offer you the following steps:

  1. Step away from the situation, either physically or mentally, depending on what is happening. (Obviously, if it’s an emergency, you need to act – use discretion as needed.)
  2. Take a big deep breath. Actually, take a few. If your heart is racing, let it normalize. Close your eyes, and welcome the Holy Spirit into the situation praying, “Come, Holy Spirit.”
  3. Ask yourself, what was my intended outcome, what was my goal that I wanted to accomplish here?
  4. Ask yourself, is that intended outcome/ goal still a reality? If so, what can I still do to get there in a healthy and honest way? If not, what new goal can I set out for myself?
  5. Last, and most important, give glory to God for the mess. Thank Him for this opportunity to realize we are not on our own in this world.

In the end, the reality is this: God has control. He created the universe as we know it and holds it together each and every day. Have faith in knowing that He holds you carefully in his hands as well.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

The Jesus of Scripture is the Jesus that wants to enter into your imperfections. Take a closer look at who He is in A Second Look: Encountering the True Jesus by Mark Hart.

About the Author

Rachel Penate

I am a Wisconsin girl at heart who has a slight obsession with the band Switchfoot. When I was little I dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but instead found myself studying Education. Currently I reside in the great, yet terribly hot state of Arizona and am neither a figure skater or teacher - I joyfully serve the Church as Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Life Teen. When I'm not typing away at my desk, I'm spending time with my family, working out, or relaxing with my nose buried in a book.

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