Expectations are like a thief.
My oldest daughter, Havana, turns seven next week!
At our house, we call birthday celebrations, “birthday festivals” because I love to celebrate over an extended period. This year, my daughter expressed interest in having a party at the dance studio where she takes ballet. We agreed, but her contentment with the dance party didn’t last long. She began coming home from school talking about a magic show that she and her friends came up with to perform at the party. I kept reminding her that we were having a dance party and not a magic party, but my gentle reminders went unheard. She continued to plan additional components to her party that grew more and more extravagant. She had a list of desired actives that were unlikely, unnecessary, and unrealistic. Finally, after her incessant talking about all the non-dance activities we were going to have at her dance party, I very clearly spelled out to her that I want to see gratitude for the party we planned not the one she has imagined.
Her aggressive planning annoyed me. I was frustrated at her seeming inability to be grateful. I felt ignored and unappreciated as she continued to allow her mind and conversation to wander to the false reality that she desired. But, honestly, what bothered me most about this whole situation, is the mirror of what is often my own attitude.
October 19th is our dating anniversary. Every year I want to celebrate the day I became Jason’s girlfriend while my husband does not. In the weeks leading up to it, I always allow my mind to wander into a fictional scenario where he does countless romantic acts to express his love. To be clear, my husband is a very romantic man, and he certainly puts effort into our wedding anniversary and other special occasions, but the longer we’ve been married, the less he feels compelled to celebrate our dating anniversary. Despite his resistance, I continue to talk to him about plans and make comments about secret surprises I’m sure he has up his sleeve. I feel the Lord nudging me not to place my husband under a litmus test, but His gentle reminders go unheard as I mentally plan for our big day. Before the day arrives, I have a list of desired actives that are unlikely, unnecessary, and unrealistic. Yesterday, I waited all day for Jason to do or say one of my extravagant plans, but he did not. As we were putting the children down to bed, and he was getting ready to leave for work, I coldly said, “Today was our dating anniversary.” He piped up, “I know. I thought about it several times. I am so glad that 13 years ago I started dating you. I still love dating you.”
Those words meant little to this wife.
He could have said the kindest things in the world or written a love sonnet on a card or taken me to get a special dessert, and I wouldn’t have appreciated any of it. Just like my daughter, I concocted a wild scenario that hindered my ability to be grateful for what I have. My husband felt unappreciated as I allowed my mind to wander into my deeply desired false reality.
When I believe my husband must prove his love by matching my daydream, I create a lose-lose situation. My husband is destined to fail before the day’s even started. Our marriage suffers because I snap and react to my preconceived ideas. And, I intentionally leave God out of the entire day because I want what I want and don’t use this day to work on my issues.
Watching my attitude played out before my eyes in the form of my daughter is hard, but I am thankful for it. Every October we are going to have our dating anniversary, and every year I can choose to continue to create scenarios that my husband will never live up to, or I can choose to do what I’ve instructed my daughter to do: be grateful, realistic, and in control of my thoughts. I can make this month hard on everyone, or I can choose to create special moments in the form of an agreeable and selfless wife. For me, it won’t be easy to let my desire to celebrate our dating anniversary go, but with God’s help I can realize life isn’t about me or my desires. It is about Him and being a wife who glorifies Him.
Do expectations ever steal your gratitude?