Reoriented Expectations as the Key to Healthy Relationships

Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game between North Carolina and Gonzaga was a dud. The stats indicate that it was one of the worst finals games on record. I’m far from a college basketball expert, but analysts say that far too many foul calls meant the game had no real rhythm, which led to poor offense on both sides of the court.

It was bad enough that LeBron James felt the need to tweet, “Man I can’t watch this anymore man! I would like to see the kids decide who wins the game! I mean Bruh!! Smh”

Predictably, there was still a massive celebration at the final buzzer, and a champion crowned. But for the average fan, the game fell flat. ESPN’s Myron Medcalf wrote, “The confetti that fell from the rafters after the game looked like sprinkles on college basketball’s melted, messy championship sundae.”

Well said. But the question is, why? Why would such a highly anticipated game be such a let down?

I think the answer lies in our expectations.

It’s natural to assume that when the two best teams finally get a chance to go toe-to-toe with everything on the line, then the net result should be the best game, played at a very high level. When that doesn’t pan out, we walk away disappointed. Our expectations haven’t been met.

But how about in the day-to-day stuff of life?

I think it’s fair to say that most of our expectations are rooted in how the stuff and people we fill our lives with will ultimately serve us. Let’s consider that statement for a second.

In a practical sense, our devices, appliances, homes and vehicles are all designed with one central purpose: to serve us. When they malfunction and fail to serve us properly, our expectations aren’t met.

But here’s where it can get unhealthy. In our broken humanity, we tend to view people the same way. Our sinful expectations dictate that the folks in our lives are primarily there to serve us.

For example, our co-workers become nothing more than a commodity when we view them as pawns that will help us advance our careers. Marriages suffer greatly when one spouse expects the other to meet their every waking need. Children become hardened and embittered when a parent’s expectations are rooted in perfectionism, or in the parent’s own desire for approval through their child’s performance. Even relationships with neighbors suffer when we expect them to care for their property in a way that makes our house look good.

Miraculously, Jesus turns those kinds of expectations on their head.

Unhealthy expectations say, “You’re here to serve me.”

Jesus says, “I’m here to serve you.”

Unhealthy expectations say, “Your life for mine.”

Jesus says, “My life for yours.”

Even though Jesus told his disciples what was coming in terms of his death, they never fully understood. Why? Because he wasn’t what they expected. They thought he’d be a great earthly king. Instead, he was a suffering servant.

In Mark 10, Jesus said, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

And there’s the key.

It’s through the lens of the cross that we see co-workers, spouses, children, and neighbors as people to serve instead of a means of getting what we want. The Gospel of grace reorients us from the love of self to the love of others.

Jesus quite literally poured his life out for all humanity, even those who hated him. There is no greater love than this. Jesus had reoriented expectations.

What kind of transformation could we see in our relationships if we reoriented our expectations?

Authored by NCC Assistant Pastor Jonathan Valletta |

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