This week as we walk together towards the Cross, our theme is scars. We wanted author Sue Eenignburg of Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission (written by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg) to share because this book is tangible evidence of the wounds we can get in this line of work. It’s also an act of redemption, Sue and Robynn take their wounds offer them back to, no longer as open wounds, but the scars that can come from redemption. Sue, thank you for being here today.
People talk about examining expectations. Can you share a few practical tips you’ve heard others use or you use yourself to examine expectations?
A good place to start is planning a yearly review where we make time to consider where the expectation comes from. Is it from yourself? Is it perceived to be an expectation from others but really isn’t? Many times I think women hold themselves to a higher standard than anyone else does. Women have to be proactive in this and enlist the support of others in order to take this necessary time off to think and pray.
Is the expectation in line with one’s gifting and strength? Many of my expectations were based on what I thought M women should be able to do, not necessarily how my gifts could contribute to the great commission. Taking a spiritual gifts inventory or strengths test and then looking at your ministry goals would be a good opportunity to see if there is alignment.
A very good book that I recently used was by T.J. Addington called Live Like You Mean It and in it he asks ten questions that helped me look at my expectations, dreams, faith and reality. It was a great opportunity to let a few dreams die and develop new vision with different expectations based on God’s leading and not my own ideals.
Some women might take a spiritual retreat to spend time with God in reflection and in his Word, praying through expectations, goals, schedules, and dreams.
Going over a list of our expectations with close friends, a mentor or trusted supervisor (someone who knows us well) can give us good insight into what might be realistic and what might be unrealistic.
How do you distinguish between knowing your expectations do need to be adjusted and sensing your expectations are reasonable and the problem is outside? (For example in your organization, team, or host culture.)
Here is the thing, even if the problem is from outside we usually have to adjust our expectations even as we consider how to respond! We often want a quick fix and that is seldom possible.
Many times expectations aren’t met because they aren’t known and even if they are known they are often not communicated. Being assertive in speaking with your organization or team about expectations is imperative. Before arriving on a team let them know what you are expecting and ask them what they are expecting of you. Sometimes we can let disappointments simmer until we explode.
Being proactive to talk about expectations before the explosion is essential. Developing the ability to say no to some things in order to say yes to more strategic ways of using our gifts are vital to M women. When saying no to some opportunities you are expected to say yes to, taking the time to talk through reasoning is helpful for team and organizational leaders.
Women could make a list of what they think the expectations of them are from their organization and/or team. Go over those with the main leader to see if they are expecting what you think they are expecting from you. This could be a good opportunity to discover if those expectations are real or perceived. One young woman went to her leadership and after a discussion similar to this, she stated they were expecting too much and showed them her schedule. They agreed and became more flexible and realistic in their expectations of her.
It is harder with expectations regarding a host culture as overseas workers as we are always learning new things about the host culture. We learn a lot by making mistakes. Also, we must be deciding on cultural adaptations, both in our home and host cultures, based on scriptural principles and not merely what is expected of us.
I was expected to go to a national church in our host country to gain language skills (and worship the Lord) but when my children were little I spent most of the time outside trying to keep them from disrupting the service. I decided not to go since I wasn’t worshipping or learning more language. My time was more profitably spent at home.
There’s always more to say about a subject, but at some point you have to say, “enough!” and publish the book. What do you wish you could add to the book?
I would have loved to delve more into expectations and their impact on vision. I think being more intentional in dealing with our expectations of God would have been helpful.
Dealing with the lies we unknowingly believe from our culture and our own past or ideals would be a great topic as they affect expectations we might have of ourselves. Women are constantly bombarded with lies like ‘You are not worthy. You have to work harder and be better.’ ‘You are not as gifted as your team mate. You are less significant.’ ‘You should go home. You would be happier there.’ ‘You will never be a good mom. Look at what you did today and you call yourself a M.’ ‘Singleness is what is making you lonely. God is at fault for not bringing you a husband.’ ‘Your team expected more from you. What a disappointment. You should feel ashamed.’ ‘Look at all the needs. If you don’t meet them who will?’ What are the truths we need to know to battle the war with lies as we seek to examine expectations as we serve and honor the Lord?
I love Robynn’s story as she shares hope out of heartache. I know there are other stories of burnout where hope is also experienced and shared. I would have loved to read more of those testimonies and include them in the book! Burnout isn’t the end. God’s amazing grace gives hope.
What a great note to end in light of Holy Week and the Hope that comes with Easter. Sue, thank you for you time with us today! Book Club Buddies, what stood out or was stirred in you?
Our first comment will be another answer from Sue about scars and expectations. We just didn’t have room for everything :).
P.S. Next week we discussion the chapter on expectations and co-workers.
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