Have you ever noticed how uncooperative people can be during holiday celebrations when it comes to fulfilling other people’s expectations? Here are a few things that have happened in our families over the years:
- Once someone got their feelings hurt because someone carved the turkey who didn’t “always” carve the turkey.
- There was that year when a fight broke out over dinner the first night home for the holidays, names were called and things were said and we almost packed up and went home before the actual holiday meal was cooked, much less served.
- One year a child cried because they counted up the gifts and realized that their cousin received one more present than they did.
- I remember the year that I cried because my new bicycle had a headlight that didn’t work because it needed new batteries.
- There was that year when my mom thought it was a good idea to use place cards and assign seating and someone (ok, me) rearranged them so that said someone could sit at the children’s table with her nieces and nephews. An act that was then interpreted as treason.
- During an Easter egg hunt someone accused someone else of stealing, only to find out that the silver dollar in question was hidden under the fake green grass in the alleged victim’s Easter basket.
- Who can forget the year that my mother opened all her gifts in secret, rewrapped them, and then pretended to guess every single present (down to the color), on Christmas morning?
In hindsight, most of these stories (most, not all) may seem funny today, but in the moment there was no laughing. They serve as a reminder to me that sometimes our unrealistic expectations of people are as harming as the missteps we humans make along the way. Does it really matter who carves the turkey? Isn’t gratitude found in the ability to buy a turkey and gather as a group to eat it?
As we make our plans, can we start by managing our expectations? In fact, I’d suggest we abandon expectations altogether! Just let them go. Perhaps remember a snippet of a verse found in Philippians 2, “It is God who is at work….”
God is at work.
God is at work.
Look for his work, a work that shows up in a life filled with community, giving and receiving, bearing with and bearing witness.