Growing up, I was expected to behave in a certain way. I was expected to listen to my parents (listening is very different than obedience), study hard, get to my job on time, go to church, etc. While in college I was expected to attend class, study hard, declare a major, make new friends, have fun (but not too much), prepare for my future, hopefully find a wife (winner) and then graduate with a well paying job in my field of study waiting for me. Well, some of those expectations did not really work out so well. In fact, I failed on most of those expectations. Don’t get me wrong, life has worked out extremely well for me, just not in the expected way.
We all have expectations for our lives and those can be good. We should be expected to be polite, friendly, flush, wash our hands and not end up incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. But where are your expectations coming from? Who is telling you that you should go to this school, get this job, marry this person, buy this house or live this lifestyle? I have been thinking about the expectations placed upon my own life recently. In my line of work, there are certain expectations that come along with the gig.
I have been an Associate/Youth Pastor for the past 10 years and have enjoyed ministering to youth. I love my church and the amazing people who fill the pews every Sunday, even those who forget how to get to church from time to time. I really love my youth group and all of the kids who have come and gone over these past 10 years. But after a while, an Associate/Youth pastor is expected to “move up” to the lead pastor role. Kind of like a badge of honor thing. You did your time doing small time ministry, now step up behind the pulpit and lead a congregation. That system of expectations works really well for many people.
I chased that expectation earlier this year. In fact, the whole process took about a year but came to a messy halt this past January and February. See, I listened to the voices that encouraged me to embrace the expected career arc of a pastor. I don’t blame them, I also thought that was what I was supposed to do. I thought I was to be the next lead pastor of a certain congregation. But when it came down to the interviews, trial sermon, all of the things that go into a pastor “auditioning” it was obvious to my wife and I that we were not to go. Our expectations of “moving up” behind the pulpit failed. I feel like it was a disaster. I went through dark periods of guilt as if I let down two congregations (my current one and the trial one), I let down their leadership team, I let down my mentors and ultimately let down myself. I did not meet those expectations. I did not meet “their” expectations.
I hold no grudges against them. In fact, I love them. I feel like they helped me to learn a lesson about expectations, meeting those expectations and, ultimately, where they come from. I feel like too often in life we get our expectations from other people. They may be parents, friends, teachers or trusted mentors. They probably mean well and only have your best interest in mind. But I think we place too much value and worth on the expectations of others and not enough on the passion we have growing inside of us. What if we were expected to do what we are passionate about? What if we were expected to do what we love? What if we were not expected to worry about salaries, retirement plans and moving up the social ladder? How different would our lives be if we sacrificed material possessions so that we could do what we were really passionate about?
I have a friend who was probably at one time in high school expected to go into the family business. Instead, he followed his passions and talents and is now an amazing pediatric oncologist who helps kids and their parents walk through the horrible journey that is cancer. This guy inspires me. He has a passion for his job, has a passion for his family and his hobbies. He loves life and I think it probably has something to do with the fact that he is doing what he is passionate about and did not listen to the expectations of others.
I am finding my passion, the “thing” inside of my soul that gets me up in the morning. It’s the passion which brings joy to my life, joy to others and makes your life feel like the puzzle is coming together. There is a big difference between the expectations people place on us and the passion that fuels our lives. I want to do the unexpected, I want to do what I am passionate about. Even though I am probably expected to “move up” behind the pulpit someday, I am realizing that right now in my life, I don’t have that passion or drive to do that. I feel that I am gifted to work with kids and there are sometimes it feels like it is not good enough for some people in my field of work. But I think when we go against others expectations, we cannot help but have this collision of passion and expectations. I hope that I always follow my passion, even if it changes. I hope that I encourage my own kids to follow their passion and do what they love. My 10 year old son wants to open his own bakery when he grows up. He wants to make cakes and pastries. You know what, Emrick? Go for it! Maybe if I follow one of my newly discovered passions of writing, I will make enough money from the books I write that I can pay for your own bakery. Let’s follow our passions first and be wary of those who put expectations on our lives.