A great spiritual mentor in my life once told me that when it comes to our relationship with God, our expectations define our reality. The more I think about those words, the more they ring true. I often rely on preconceived notions and judgements inside my head to create a viewpoint from which I view the world. These notions and judgements create expectations about who I am as a person and what my relationship with God should look like. Sometimes these expectations can begin to define my reality and get in the way of me truly experiencing my relationship with God as he intended it. I am not the first person to struggle with these expectations. Abraham had the preconceived notion that Sarah was too old to bear children. Moses defined himself as a poor public speaker and had the expectation that this would always be the case, even while he was with God. In Mark 6, Jesus is unable to perform miracles because of peoples’ notion of him in his hometown. In all of these stories, the common theme is people letting their own expectations of how God works limit what God can do through them. So this begs the question: What expectations and judgements do we cast on ourselves that possibly limit our relationship with God? This was the question I seeked to answer through my spiritual discipline, Truth telling. I spent the week reflecting on the “truths”, both good and bad, and how these notions limit how I view God. I did this by finding quiet and secluded spaces where I could spend time in reflection. This time can be spent in a multitude of ways with each way having many benefits. One way to spend this time is by setting an alarm for five minutes and writing all the bad things that come to mind about yourself and then repeating the process, writing only good things. When I personally worked through this exercise, I found the list of the negatives to be way longer than the positives. Going over the list, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt because I felt that the words I had written down were keeping me from God. For a moment I felt that my shortcomings superseded God’s ability to work through me. I was left thinking about who I am and my limits, instead of realizing that I serve a God who has no limits. Just like the Biblical stories I mentioned earlier, I should not limit God’s ability to work miracles based on my human capabilities. My negative perceptions of myself are largely built on the idea that I am not doing enough for God. I have been blessed with a strong Christian community, amazing spiritual mentors, and caring parents since birth, so if so much has been poured into me, why am I unable to return the grace and love I have been given? These thoughts plagued me and I felt almost like I was a carefully crafted project that just did not reach its full potential. The crazy thing about thoughts like this is that they are directly refuted in the Bible. The Word says I am chosen (1 Peter 2:9), a citizen of heaven (Phillipians 3:20), and a conqueror (Romans 8:37). After reading these verses, I realized the two lists I had created earlier do not define me at all. I am defined by the Father who supersedes any expectations I have for myself. In the past I have often defined my relationship with God based on who I am and what I could do for the Kingdom, but this discipline taught me that my relationship with God is based on who God is, and what God can do for the Kingdom through me.
The UCC Spiritual Practices blog is here for you to grow and develop in your faith and daily time with God. The majority of the articles are written by UCC's own Garrett Le and Hanson Von Flue, with the guidance of Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.