It usually happens at some point on my solo trips that I recognize I am at what feels like total peace. I am completely alone, yet have no sense of loneliness. I am removed from the regular concerns of real life. I am disconnected from the news of the world. Conversations with my loved ones at home are just easy going check-ins...How's it going and I love you. I have no responsibility for anyone other than myself. There are no real tensions. On my last trip, this led me to reflect on the kinds of things that can cause tension and rob us of peace... often it's disappointment. And what causes disappointment? Unmet expectations. When I'm traveling alone, other than surface interactions with store clerks and hotel hosts I really have no expectations of anyone so I'm pretty free of disappointments. It's easy to be at peace.
So the question arose on my last trip, how do I bring that home where relationships and real life tensions live? It is reasonable and healthy to have some expectations when we are in relationships... with friends, family and co-workers. Those kind of expectations allow for trust and vulnerability. Those kind of expectations build our sense of safety and security and belonging. Being able to trust and depend on family and friends is important. So, how do I deal with unmet expectations and disappointments with the people that really matter in life?
(This is the part of my exercise of personal reflection and transparency where a reader might raise a speculative eyebrow about some possible marital or familial discord and want to make judgements and conclusions. Rest easy. That is not the case.)
As I walked along without anyone to have expectations of or disappointments in, in total peace, I asked this question "How can I respond when I'm disappointed, when realistic and healthy expectations aren't met by those I care about and count on? How do I stand in that space in such a way that I still have peace?" After repeating it several times...asking God really, I waited for an answer. It actually felt like it was a bigger moment for me than just a passing thought, so I made sure to hang on and not move to another thought until I had an answer. I believe it came... though I won't say it was God speaking to me, it did sound like Him. The answer was pretty clear. "Self-Less Grace".
The answer was not to demand my way or my "rights", to shame, to manipulate, or to express my disappointment. The answer was to meet that person in those circumstances by putting aside my agenda and extending grace, KNOWing that ultimately God is the provider for and the meeter of all my needs.
This is contrary to our nature...to my nature. It's easy to justify my disappointment and my reaction when the expectations are realistic and healthy. It's easy to have my attention focused on all the ways another person has let me down. But if I can slow my roll and respond with grace in a "seek first His kingdom" way, then I can trust Him for "and all these other things will be added unto you". His ways are good like that. He doesn't ask us to go out on a limb and to love, to extend ourselves and even deny ourselves, to humble ourselves without a promise attached... an "If you ____ then I will____" situation. He'll meet our needs, beyond what we can even imagine. He'll restore and redeem us. He'll be the lifter of our heads.
Self-Less Grace It's not natural. It's super-natural.