The sermon on Sunday was about unexpected blessings. It chronicled the Acts 3 healing of the lame man at the gate by the Apostles Peter and John. The man was simply expecting a few coins in his cup but ended up literally walking away from the situation a healed man. He was astounded by his unexpected blessing to such a degree that he went walking and leaping while praising God. That might not sound like much, but if you’ve ever watched a baby learn to walk – just navigating the balance aspect is enormous. This man had never walked, never developed the muscles or bone strength to walk, nor had he learned to balance. But, God cured him beyond what he could have ever imagined.
When expectations are low – either yours or someone’s of you – it can be limiting. Early in my daughter’s elementary education, I had a run-in with a teacher because she had lower expectations for my child than the rest of the class. Because the expectations were lower – she was required to do less, and less was accepted by the teacher. There was no educational reason for this. My daughter just happened to be the only black child in the class. This expectation problem blew up spectacularly during a presentation to parents. The teacher had the children write one long paragraph about the topic, share it in front of the audience, and receive feedback. Every single child had a paragraph except my daughter, who had two sentences.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.
Of course, as a second-grader, it seemed great at first to only have to write a fraction of what the other kids had to do, and she took the opportunity to play. But, the fallout was disastrous. When it came time to present to the audience, she suddenly realized how people responded to her. She stood facing an audience of pitying and judgemental eyes; she began shaking and crying. It shook her confidence and perception of herself. I was furious. She had been set up to fail and paraded in front of the class.
Breaking Through Low Expectations
That afternoon I set up a meeting with the teacher and principal, took my daughter home, and watched her as she wrote a three-paragraph essay about the topic. We brought it to the meeting the next day as I explained the damage low expectations do to children. Both administrator and teacher looked stunned at the level of her work. I demanded that the teacher expect the same from her as the rest of the class. The problem was my child had lived down to expectations.
The Man And My Girl
The lame man’s friends “helped” him daily by bringing him to the gate to beg. They did not expect him to do more because of his ankles. He could have become a carpenter – his arms worked. He could have become a teacher – his brain worked. This teacher probably thought she was “helping” my girl by not requiring the same work from her because of what she assumed to be her capabilities because of my child’s race. But all this “helping” was a hindrance.
We have had many “talks” in my house about navigating the world. The talk about lowered expectations happened when she was seven. It is a tough conversation to explain to a seven-year-old that some people will underestimate you because their prejudices and perceptions prevent them from valuing you the same as others. Presenting the truth without breaking her spirit was even harder. So I taught all my children not to care what others thought about them. To make their own way. Do their own thing. To be the best version of themselves – for themselves that they could be. I taught them to let others’ low expectations, views, and insults slide off them like “water off a duck’s back.” It became our mantra.
In Theory And In Practice
While that lesson sounds fantastic in theory, in practice, it is a painful lesson to learn. Imagine the no-longer-lame man’s reaction to taking part in aspects of society that had always been blocked from him. Though grateful – he may have deeply felt the time he had missed. Learning as a young child that you have to be bigger, better, stronger to get quasi-equal respect can make you resentful. But the unexpected blessing of living your life relatively free from the concern of what others think of you is enormous.
The Unexpected Blessing Of Freedom
Our kids live in a world saturated by social media, corporate imaging, fake personas, and unrealistic “reality” tv. So it is truly an unexpected blessing that teaching my young children that they need not be concerned with others’ expectations or opinions gave them the freedom to think outside the box. Expectations do not confine them, so there is no “right way” to do things like making a living. They can make a living as actors, musicians, artists, investors, or entrepreneurs. A college degree doesn’t define them – they can choose to go or not, depending on their own goals. They know their own value – so they recognize that trading time for money is always a losing proposition because you can always replace money – but you can never replace time.
The Covid Connection
If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that what so many people thought was the “right” way to make a living – wasn’t. Instead, people realized that quality of life is essential; time with family is irreplaceable; long commutes are terrible; being able to stay with sick kids and still work from home is fantastic.
Covid taught us that our own expectations were too low. And the people with the most unorthodox ways of making a living did great while those of us stuck in a long commute, nine to five, stretched thin, limited home life maybe didn’t have it as good as we thought. People realized they could have been working from home all along. No tolls, no hours of wasted commute time, no costly gas prices, car wear and tear, uncomfortable clothes, fear of needing time off to tend to the most important people in our lives – NEVER needed to be that way. Thus “The Great Resignation.”
You Were Made For More Than This
Let’s resign from the low expectations in our lives. Why can’t I be a writer? Why can’t I start my own business or follow my dreams? Why can’t I make my hobby – my living? Why not? We tell children to “shoot for the stars” and then spend our entire adult lives firmly planted on earth just trying to make it over everyday mountains because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. Why don’t we shed those low expectations – You were made for more than this!
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Ephesians 3:20 & 21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.