By Pastor Paula Burchill
Last season, Blake Bortles, the quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars, had the season of his life. He put up great numbers and brought his team to the play offs. The amazing thing was that it kind of came out of nowhere—he’d never been all that good, and he was awarded a big contract in the off season.
Fast forward to this season, and Bortles got benched for bad play. I think he is playing again, but he is nowhere near where he was last season. The difference? Expectations.
Last year, no one expected him to be good, so he played with freedom. The Seahawks have been better than a lot of people expected this season, arguably because they have been playing without expectations. Teams that win the Super Bowl often have disappointing seasons the next year. It is so common, that if you aren’t the Patriots, it’s almost expected.
One of the books Martin Luther wrote almost 500 years ago was called The Freedom of a Christian. Martin was a monk with a very guilty conscience. He was filled with anxiety that he wasn’t doing enough to earn God’s favor and it essentially paralyzed him. Then he had an insight from the bible, and it made him realize there wasn’t anything he actually could do to earn God’s favor, because God’s favor is a free gift with no strings attached. This realization changed his life—and led to him reforming the church.
Now, rather than living under the weight of constant expectations for good behavior, he was free. There was nothing he could do to be perfect, so he just started to live and do good works out of joy.
Last year, Blake was playing with abandon. He wasn’t worried about putting up great numbers or maybe even winning. He just had fun and played. OK, I really don’t know how he was feeling, but that is how he looked. This year, it like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.
How often do we feel the weight of expectations and they weigh us down? We worry so much about making a mistake, that we just don’t want to even try. We worry that someone will judge us, so we keep quiet and keep to ourselves. I see this happen with parenting. I had a friend once who was so lonely, but she wouldn’t invite anyone over because she thought people would judge her for having a messy house.
Several years ago, when my kids were little, I worried a lot. What if they have a bad teacher? What if they don’t make the team? What if they are mean? What if they get really sick or get hurt? Then I had a friend tell me, “There is no perfect school, no perfect teacher, no perfect parent, and no perfect life.” And it was like her words gave me the freedom in my parenting I didn’t know I was missing. I was so worried about things I really couldn’t control that I wasn’t enjoying the kids who were right in front of me. Now, I often remind myself of situations being imperfect, so I remember to be ok with it. It is very freeing.
We need to live in freedom, people! We ALL make mistakes. Nothing and no one is perfect. Everyone has a messy house—literally or figuratively. And yes, there might be people who will judge us, but the judge that matters—God—doesn’t judge us. God loves us. So be free. Quit living under the shackles of expectations. And start doing what you love with joy. It really is an amazing gift we have. I think it’s time we unwrap it.