The weight of expectations

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

My prayer triplet is missing our fortnightly connection, so we are reading the Psalms together. One Psalm, every weekday. No need for bible study, or discussion, or even checking in with each other. We are just reading, when we remember, and not beating ourselves up when we don’t.

It is amazing. The simple connection of knowing my two friends are reading with me. With no expectations around it.

It makes me wonder how much of my faith has become weighed down with expectation as to how things should be done. The unspoken rules of “it’s always been this way, so …”

I have been reminded recently about this verse above in Matthew, particularly the Message translation. I usually focus on the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ because that phrase is pure poetry. But lately I have been drawn to the words at the end of this passage. Those about living ‘freely and lightly’.

It makes me wonder how many of the rules of my Christian walk are actually self-imposed. Because the promise here, from Jesus, looks nothing like the have-tos of my everyday devotion. The read your bible, go to church, and make sure you pray have-tos I have unknowingly structured my life around.

Sometimes, I forget that grace is a gift. Sometimes, I forget that I cannot do anything to merit it.  And when that gift is given, the only right thing to do is to accept it, give thanks, and then walk freely and lightly in that grace. 

It is so simple really and yet I over-complicate it with my self-made rules on my faith. I impose restrictions and expectations that never came from Jesus. But they have been in place for so long that they become unseen tenets of my faith.

The benefit of all these things being stripped away in this season is the reminder that actually I have been stumbling under the weight of impositions that are ‘heavy and ill-fitting’.

It reminds me of the story of David and Goliath. A familiar story, one of a boy facing an enemy when all the soldiers had lost hope. When David volunteers to face Goliath, King Saul gives him his own armour to protect him. The exchange is related in 1 Samuel.

Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor. He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor. David tried to walk but he could hardly budge.

David told Saul, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this.” And he took it all off.

1 Samuel 17:38-39 (MSG)

He couldn’t walk. David had been given all these items of clothing that were expected to protect him, but in fact all they did was weigh him down. He was unable to move for the weight of it all.

What is your relationship with your faith like? Do you walk lightly and freely? Or are you so weighed down by expectations that you cannot budge? Is that which you thought was meant to protect you, really holding you at a standstill? Do you, like David, need to take it all off?

I love that David says here “I am not used to this”. But me, I have become so accustomed to the unseen weight.

It wasn’t until this forced pause that I have realised that maybe, I too, am burned out on religion. But it is not a religion that has been imposed by my church, it is something I have placed upon myself.

Can you relate?

The beautiful promise from Jesus is that he ‘won’t lay anything heavy and ill-fitting on you’. Those burdens are not from him. We don’t have to continue carrying self-made expectations that stop us from moving. We can take them off. In him we can learn to live freely and lightly.

May you and I know the truth of this today. Peace be with you,


2 thoughts on “The weight of expectations

  1. Love this so much, Jodie. I too have always focused on ‘the unforced rhythms of grace’. ‘Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ is a perfect encouragement for these days. xx

    1. I love Peterson’s words and how they bring such poetry to this passage.

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