My kids were all ready for pictures with Santa. My sons wore cute red and green plaid shirts, red sweater vests and corridor pants, and my daughter wore a beautiful Christmas dress that I bought last spring on clearance. I couldn’t wait to grace the entrance of the mall and present my picturesque kids to Santa and the photo elves. Wouldn’t they all just swoon over my angelic children?!
Amazingly enough, my sons both smiled and waited patiently for the camera to flash. My daughter, on the other hand, took one look at the stranger wearing a red suit and donning a long white beard and freaked out. My husband and I tried our best to get her to smile, and the photo elves took several shots, but my daughter’s screams only grew louder and her tears only grew fatter. She reached her little arms toward me and called out “Mama!” Never once did she look in the direction of the camera.
In Christmases past, I would have been irritated about the wasted energy and the less than perfect Christmas photo, and I would have allowed my disappointment to steal a little of my Christmas joy. However, this year was different. I felt a tinge of frustration, but it was quickly overpowered by my enjoyment in the honest reaction of my child. I held my daughter in my arms and praised her instincts: “I’m so proud of you! You distrust strangers and that is a very good thing!”
As I walked with my husband back through the mall to let our kids play on the soft park, I thought about what had changed in me. Since I’ve only been a mother for six years, I prayed that God would help me to understand the good work He had performed in me. I came upon a Christian writer who gave words to what I was experiencing. She writes that our children are not here to meet our expectations or to fulfill our happiness; rather, “they are here to fulfill the purposes of God.”*
I believe that having standards for our children is good; but when we start pushing them to meet our expectations, or worse yet, other people’s expectations that we fear, we have placed a large burden on their shoulders that they were never meant to carry. As parents, we are called to obediently follow God’s lead in caring for our children (allowing His grace to fill the holes of our mistakes), and God will take care of the rest. It is HIS job to “fulfill the purposes” that He has for them.
After I finally digested this truth, I realized that I would have less disappointments, frustrations and irritation if I didn’t drive myself and everyone around me to meet MY expectations. Only God knows the future, and He is the only One who has perfect expectations. When I relinquish my desires for His, I can live my life in peace, joy and hope no matter what is going on around me. This year’s Christmas photo will always bring a smile to my face, because I know that even my daughter’s cries have fulfilled the purposes of God.
Question: How can you alleviate some stress this Christmas season by letting go of your own expectations?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28 NIV).
*Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields.