"Fear comes from trying to live someone else's life
or live up to the expectation of the crowd."
~a Facebook status
What caught my eye in these few, rather pithy words was the idea of 'expectation of the crowd'. Do we, or more importantly, am I, trying to live up to the expectations of others? Much to my chagrin, I have to say yes on so many counts. I make every effort to avoid disappointing those around me, especially those that are closest to my heart. I'm not sure I would use the word 'fearful', but I certainly don't want to fail anyone who is depending upon me for support, care or service - in any way. Perhaps I by-pass the initial indicators of being fearful (panicky feeling, cold sweat, nervousness) and skip directly to survival-mode by doing whatever it takes to make sure I succeed in making happen whatever is expected of me.
I wonder about those expectations. I suppose I could give a pretty good guess at what may be expected: acting friendly and easy-going, accepting of the prevailing point of view, willing to do the unpopular tasks, able to ignore bad behavior and always feature a contented face...complete with the winning, inviting smile. For the most part, I have not struggled with taking these traits onto myself; all except accepting bad behavior. Admittedly, this one just will never do...ever. Unfortunately, I most certainly cannot be contented if there is bad behavior over-looked, condoned, even encouraged. I find this expectation to be unacceptable, at the least - sinful at worst.
It makes me want to search out, and understand once again, exactly what the LORD expects of us - especially those of us that are believers. If you are sincerely and diligently seeking to be made into the image of the Messiah, then it definitely would be a benefit to know what is expected of us by the Almighty. Perhaps some of the following Scriptures will shed some light on my search (I have taken the liberty to bold the expectations).
At one point, Paul prays for the Thessalonian church, petitioning the LORD to sanctify them, to make them holy, "...and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our G-d and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
Our LORD desires us to have a pure heart. A heart that is filled with love for one another and a mind that thinks on good things to edify each other.
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
This prayer of David, the man after G-d's own heart, highlights his perceptions of what the LORD desires of His own:
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O G-d,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Further, we are to submit ourselves to each other; not just wives to husbands, or sheep to shepherds, but we all are called to respect one another because we are all made in His image; and let us not forget that the Spirit of the Living G-d is dwelling within each of us.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
And, what about that bad behavior? We are to hate...yes, hate...evil.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.
Abounding in love for one another...a disciplined life & a pure heart...joy that comes from knowledge of our salvation...a spirit willing to serve others in humility...hating what is evil in His sight - what a great list of expectations that any believer would be eager to embrace. Expectations that should be prayerfully considered and carefully remembered as we try to live with others in peace. Do these expectations differ from those outlined earlier? I am left with a nagging question: who am I more afraid of disappointing - those important to me or the LORD?
For myself, I am going to do everything in my power, with fear and trembling, to live up to the expectations the LORD has of me and pray that somehow my actions and words can edify those around me and satisfy their expectations, as well. Is that too much to expect?
I hope not.