When expectations don’t match reality

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When somebody doesn’t do what they should do or what they’re expected to do, it can cause a lot of pain. I have found that the distance between expectations and reality has a direct relationship to stress in life. The more distance, the more stress. If it’s you who says one thing but doesn’t really come through in real life, then the stress and shame of that will do all sorts of things to you. It will cause other’s to mistrust you or dismiss you as someone who just isn’t very reliable. If it’s something you intended to do, but never got around to it, you might also be filled with guilt. It will probably cause you to avoid the person who had the expectations of you. When you see them at the grocery store, you run to the frozen food section so you don’t have to deal with them. You’re embarrassed and you’re ashamed.

Some of you identify with this scenario. Maybe all of us to some degree. I have found great relief and help from a passage in the Gospels about the reinstatement of the Apostle Peter after he “let Jesus down.” He denied even knowing Jesus and he even cursed to demonstrate that he was not a follower of Jesus. Lots and lots of shame. Peter and others expected Peter to stand with Jesus no matter what, but he denied Jesus three times. Here’s the passage.

John 21:15-19When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again, Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Much has been said about this passage over the years. It’s the first encounter with Peter following the resurrection. This is where Jesus restores Peter after he denied him three times. Jesus uses different words for love in this passage. One of the big lessons is that when you love someone, you take on the responsibility of teaching and caring for them. Jesus didn’t give up on Peter. He doesn’t give up on you either. You might avoid or deny Jesus. You might have let someone down or someone let you down.

Don’t give up on others, love them, reinstate them. Jesus did it with Peter. He does it with you. You can do it for others.

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