Every year about this time I flash back to 1984 and I cringe!
My highshool sweetheart, Randy, and I had gotten married in college. We were full time students with no job, living off of home-canned vegetables from his parents’ garden and $0.33 a box Kraft Mac and Cheese. We had gone for 3 years without buying any meat other than the cheapest ground beef we could find on sale. We had splurged on our anniversary one year to go see the movie “Mad Max” at the $1 matinee in the college theater. The year before a $40 early Christmas present his sister sent was used to purchase our whole Christmas – that included a scrawny live tree, 2 sets of 20 lights, a boxed set of a dozen ornaments, a tree stand, and cross-stitch material for me to make presents for all our family!
After a couple of years of living tight, we had both graduated, and Randy had a great job in a stable company as a junior engineer. We now had money coming in, although a lot of it went to pay back student loans, and were excited that this Valentine’s Day we could actually buy each other presents!
As the day approached I purchased Randy a present, and eagerly awaited the day so we could exchange gifts! I spent lots of spare moments daydreaming over what special gift he might have gotten for me this year: Roses?! Jewelry?! Something really great for sure, because we had money now! Oh the anticipation and expectations!
He came in from work the afternoon of February 14th with his hands behind his back grinning from ear to ear! Oh wow! It was going to be good! I think I may have squealed as he told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. I just knew that this first REAL Valentine’s gift of our married life was gonna be a good one! My expectations soared.
The moment he placed the gift gently in my hands and said “Open your eyes!” was a pivotal moment for me. All my hopes and excitement were swept away as I stared into the face of a simple stuffed teddy bear. I paused, not reacting immediately, thinking there must be more… but nothing. He stood there with a sweet, loving smile waiting for my reaction as I turned into the wicked witch of the west and lashed out in tears. His smile faded as he was taken aback by my anger, disapproval, and ungratefulness.
Looking back I am ashamed that I acted that way. It was an adorable teddy bear with suspenders and hearts attaching the suspenders to the pants. He bought it because he loved me so, and it represented a cuddly, sweet picture of the love we shared. He was young and didn’t realized the selfish expectations for grand things I had in my heart.
The afternoon continued with tears and discussions and a breaking of my anger. I slowly began to understand the thought and love that had gone into his purchase. He took me to a beautiful, romantic supper and offered to go shopping with me to return the bear and pick out whatever I wanted, (he really is an unselfish picture of the love of God) but I declined. I decided I wanted to keep that bear. I needed to keep that bear!
That day I learned the big dirty word in my life: EXPECTATIONS! It’s actually the big dirty word for all of us no matter who we are showing love to. Are we going to be so focused on our desires, or our needs from the relationship, that we are let down or angry when those expectations are not met? With a friend – do we get angry when they cancel plans with us or hang out with another friend? With a parent, are we upset when they treat a sibling in a way we don’t think is best, maybe feeling we were slighted? With a person we’re dating – do we get mad when things don’t go our way? With a spouse – do we let them have it verbally when they fail to do, or do something different than, what we thought was best? In all these situations we are letting our expectations control us and cause us to be dissatisfied in the relationship.
The key to satisfying loving relationships is to not hold expectations so dear to our heart that they become goals and feel like failures when they don’t happen.
I still have that teddy bear I received 33 years ago. I kept it on purpose as a reminder NOT to sell out to my expectations. As our 4 children came along my “Expectation Bear” was the first stuffed animal in the nursery. My kids and grandkids have all loved on him and played many games with him through the years. He’s had an ear torn off and sewn back on, and has lost both suspenders and one heart, but I still keep him in the toy box. I need the reminder of how my selfish expectations wounded one I love dearly and nearly wrecked a beautiful day. That bear will always be with me. I’ll probably be the little ole lady in the nursing home hugging that bedraggled bear.
That little reminder, that bear, has helped me develop a happier lifestyle, one that doesn’t set expectations on people. My only expectation is in the only perfect one who knows me completely – My Savior and Love, Jesus. All my expectations are in Him.
So this February 14th, let’s not allow expectations of a gift, or of being married “by now,” or of someone owing us something, or of anything else ruin a relationship or sidetrack us from earthly relationships or from Our True Lover, Creator, and Friend!