Great — WRONG — Expectations

Expectations – we all have them, but sometimes, they’re wrong.

When I visited Portland for the first time, I was still living in North Carolina. I was a thirty-something pastor’s daughter (and niece, great-niece, and granddaughter), who had a degree from a church college, and had worked for six years for a conservative church denomination. I had made a dozen or so friends out here via the internet and though a couple of them were churched folks, the majority weren’t. And what I learned on that first evening out here was that people who had been so open and outgoing behind the safety of a computer screen, when they met me in person, were suddenly concerned that “the church lady” was going to judge them, condemn them, and treat them badly. They stood back and watched me from a safe distance, speaking little, and interacting even less. But it turned out that I didn’t find them detestable or contemptible or abominable. I found them interesting and insightful and unique. They’ve given me a whole education on how to love people who are different than me. And those folks who withdrew and stood back, hesitant, are now some of the closest to me and most involved in my life. Because I didn’t judge them the way they expected me to.

While I was growing up, I witnessed a whole lot of judgmental, condemning people in the church. I learned that people often judged me without knowing me, just based on the fact that I was a preacher’s daughter and a church member. And if I made a mistake or disappointed them, there was rarely forgiveness. I had to earn love. And I couldn’t make mistakes. Not if I wanted to be loved and accepted.

Because I had to earn love from church people, I assumed I needed to earn love from God. And because church people were unforgiving and critical, I assumed that God was, too. And so, I couldn’t make mistakes if I wanted to be loved and accepted by Him.

The problem with that is that God is not like people, and so we can’t expect Him to act like people.

So, what if I don’t have to earn love from God? What if He loves me the way I am because He created me? What if God isn’t critical, but is understanding instead? What if He accepts my weaknesses and forgives me when I ask Him to, and helps me to become a bigger, better person with deeper wisdom and richer character? And what if He doesn’t just love me? What if He actually likes me, too? What if He thinks I’m smart and beautiful and funny and creative? And what if He tries to make me feel like I am, too? And what if I let Him love me like this?

In this week’s chapter of The Cure by Lynch, McNicol, and Thrall, we are reminded that there is risk to trusting God – just like there is in trusting people. But the reward is so sweet!

The Cure Pic

This post is part of a weekly book discussion. You don’t have to read the book to stick around and chat, but if you have written a response to this week’s chapter, go ahead and drop by my co-facilitator’s place to link it up at the widget!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Well, I’ve never found you judgmental..for the record… However I think I get your drift… Its sort of like why maybe the boys (mine) are leery(is that a word) about going back to church…They have seen folks do some of the same things they have, but now they judge them.. But still no reason not to go back to church…They too just need to remember He loves them just the way they are…

  2. What if I stumble? What if I fall? Why go *to* a church when you can actively live and *be* the church? We are in the body and fender business – not the legal department.

    Sorry for the disjointed thoughts – I’ve been far too busy over the last five days with things and people in need of aid. They do *not* need my judgment – they can use my assistance or attention.

    Good post.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Barbara, you remind those boys of yours that they can’t judge God as though He’s a man. He isn’t. And He’s not going to act like one. He can’t be put into a box.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Rick, it’s a natural thing, I think, to try to figure out what God’s like by looking at His people. The problem is that He is WAY BEYOND His people. “Now we see in a glass darkly…”

  5. Amen! I have all the God I’m going to get…He lives inside me. He goes with me everywhere. He is here, right now!
    That’s awesome.

    I too grew up thinking I had to perform or act a certain way to earn love. It’s made my walk with God very challenging because I don’t have to DO anything to get His love and favor. By simply existing I am loved. By simply believing in His gift of Salvation, I am guaranteed a place in heaven. I don’t have to act a certain way or meet any quotas.
    Instead, because of His love, I WANT To act pleasing to Him. And I’m learning to trust that when I mess up, He isn’t finished with me. He’s never finished with me.

    Great post.

  6. So crazy how those ideas get cemented into our heads. Perform. Prove. Do it right or get rejected. Real love (meaning God’s love) doesn’t act like that. If it did, we wouldn’t know about Him. We wouldn’t know about Jesus and forgiveness and grace. But we do know and we can experience it. Thanks Sarah.

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