It all started in middle school when I started to play basketball. I loved basketball, actually, I was obsessed with basketball. Ask anyone who was around me then and it was all I talked about. I would watch SportsCenter 24/7 and watch any basketball video I could find. I struggled in school because of this obsession, I would do just enough to be able to play. School never came easy for me and while most people around me were worried about an upcoming test or project, I was worried about how many points I would score in the next game. That’s where the problem was: if I didn’t score enough points, then I was a failure, I was worthless. It didn’t matter if we won or lost. If I didn’t score enough points, then nothing else mattered.
As I got into high-school, basketball was still my obsession. However, my expectations of myself and basketball changed. Now, I wasn’t worried about scoring points, I wanted to win. If we won, then I was okay, I was “successful”. If we lost, even if I scored 30 points, I felt like it was because of me. I didn’t do enough, I didn’t pass enough, I didn’t defend well enough. My parents would try to encourage me after the games, saying that I played well and that I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself. I can remember moments when I would be walking into the locker room at halftime, we were losing, and my head would be down, I can still hear my mom telling me to get my head up. The thing is though, I couldn’t. Since we were losing, that meant I wasn’t doing enough, and I had to figure out how to do enough.
Sometime in high-school, I was diagnosed with depression and it was actually not surprising to me. My parents were upset because they thought they had failed me, but in reality, I had failed myself. It was a situational depression, so certain situations would make me feel some type of way and all I would want to do was go to my room and be by myself. Looking back, I believe this depression was caused by the expectations that I had put on myself when it came to basketball. I remember my last basketball game like it was yesterday. It was a playoff game, but I was not supposed to play because of a heart issue that I was having. The doctors told me I could not play and that I would have to wait until the test results came back before I could. This was a big game because during my time there we had never made the state playoffs, and this was our chance to do it. My dad was my coach, and he knew how bad I wanted to play. The game started and I was dressed and ready to go just in case. I was sitting on the bench begging my dad to let me play and finally, he said, “Go talk to your mom”. She saw me coming and started shaking her head, I knew she did not want me to play. After much begging, she said yes, I ran back to the bench, told my dad, and he put me in. We ended up losing. After the final buzzer sounded, I went to a crouch position and put my jersey over my head. At that moment, I felt such a huge relief, a peace. I didn’t cry or sit in the locker room for a long time. It was over no more expectations, for now.
My expectations didn’t go away, they just moved onto something else. I moved to Rock Hill, SC after high-school because of my dad’s job. It was rough because I didn’t want to leave my home and friends, and we didn’t know anyone in Rock Hill. My depression elevated a little more because I was alone more than ever before, so I had to fill that hole with something, and that something was relationships. I had to be talking to someone, or with someone 24/7, if I wasn’t then I felt awful. I would fall so hard for girls, as my parents would say, I would put the “full-court press” on them. My expectations for me and my relationships went like this: I had to always reply as fast as I could, I had to hang out with them as much as I could, I needed to do anything and everything in my power to make them happy, even if I wasn’t happy. If I did not do all this stuff then I would think they would break up with me, leave me for someone better. My identity was now in my relationships. In 2016, I got involved in some relationships that were awful. I sacrificed my values and things I believed in to make those people stay with me. My expectations were if I did these things, they would like me and stay with me. I did those things, and guess what, they didn’t like me and they didn’t stay with me. I was “too” much for them. I “too” suffocating. I was “too” caring.
Towards the end of 2016, I met a girl who would change my life forever. That girl is still with me today, she loves me for me. She looked at my past and didn’t run away. I’ll talk about her more in future posts, back to expectations.
I had grown up in church my whole life, believed in God, and made a “profession” of faith twice at the age of 8 and 14. Those were not real ones, it did not become real for me until I was the age of 22. It was not this supernatural experience, it was a simply a change of heart. A change that God could only do, a change that took time. I finally realized that there had to be more to life, I realized I needed to surrender my life to finally find it in Christ.
I graduated in December of 2017 with my bachelor’s degree and had no idea what I was going to do. Earlier in that year, I started getting involved with a church called ONE Church, in my hometown of Seneca, SC. I was helping with the youth and at the time our pastor was leading the youth group. I remember one Wednesday night before youth started, he asked me if ever thought about going into ministry. TBH, I actually did have that thought in high-school, but that’s all it was, a thought. He started to let me teach on Wednesday nights, and I thought that this was something I could do. After I graduated in December, I decided to go to seminary and get my masters. In January of this year, I was named as the Student Pastor at ONE Church, it was clicking. I finally was doing something that I liked, my relationships were great, and more importantly, I was growing in Christ, and felt closer than ever to God. Then that’s when expectations started to slowly kill me.
It was April 16th of this year when everything came to a head. I was at my house, I was alone, I was tired emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was tired of failing people, more importantly, I was tired of failing God. I believed that I wasn’t meeting anyone’s expectations and the weight of that was about to kill me. I grabbed the sharpest thing I could find, a pair of scissors. As I was holding the scissors, all I could think was, how did I get here? How did I get to this point?
My relationship with God was at its strongest. I was a student pastor and just graduated college. I was going to seminary to get my masters. My relationship with Olivia was great. Everything was going well, or at least I thought it was going well. Slowly but surely the expectations were taking a toll on me. I started to believe that my teaching was not affecting the students. I believed my parents were constantly disappointed in me, I believed Olivia was also constantly disappointed in me and that I could never please her. I was struggling in seminary and thought I was not cut out for it. I believed that my relationship with God was bad, to put it simply, I wasn’t meeting anybody’s expectations so I only saw one way to handle it, to take my life. I believed if I did that, then my parents would not be disappointed in me, Olivia would not be disappointed in me, and God would not be disappointed in me anymore. I could not meet their expectations, and I couldn’t meet mine, so I believed this was the best option.
With the scissors in my hand, I began to put pressure on where I was going to cut myself. As I was putting the pressure and saw that nothing was happening, I realized the scissors were not sharp enough. I started looking for another pair of scissors or something to sharpen the pair in my hand. Then something happened, my phone rang. It was Olivia. I answered it and she told me that she was on her way to Chick-fil-a. I had forgotten about our date. I put the scissors away and drove to Chick-fil-a. At dinner, I could not hold it in, and I told Olivia what I was trying to do when she called me. I ended up staying the night at her parent’s house in the spare room, I wanted to go home, but she was not going to let that happen and I’m forever thankful for that. If she would have let me go home, I’m not sure what would have happened to me.
I needed help, so I started seeing a counselor. It has been one of the best things for me. It has opened my eyes for me on so many issues that I thought I understood but really didn’t. The first one, that I was fearing man more than fearing God. I never thought that was the case. If anybody would’ve asked me, I would’ve said: “of course I’m fearing God more than man.” However, my actions proved otherwise. I was scared of being honest with others about how I was feeling because I thought they would write me off. I would hold things in and try to figure them out on my own and it was killing me. I didn’t want others to think that I was broken, but then I read Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” I realized that if I tried to be perfect and act like nothing was wrong, then God could not use me. The only way He would use me was if I had a broken and contrite heart, so that way He could put it together, not me.
The second issue was that I didn’t understand grace. I knew what grace was and that God shows us grace every single day. I knew it, I got it, but I only knew it in my head, not in my heart. After talking with my counselor, I realized that I was trying to work for my salvation. I never thought I was doing that, but after looking at my life I was. When I would sin, I would tell myself that I needed to read my Bible more, go pray more, fast more. I just needed to do more. I was basing my relationship with God on how I was doing. If I was doing well, then God and I were doing well. If I was struggling with sin, then God and I were not doing well. This was my life for the past couple of years. But, I realized that my relationship with God is always good BECAUSE HE IS GOOD. It’s good because of Jesus and what He did. That’s the point of the gospel. To believe in the work that Jesus did. To believe that He lived the perfect life. To believe that He died for my sins because He was the only one that could. That’s grace. Something I can never repay Him back for, something I did not deserve, and something that I can never give back. I had to learn to rest in His grace. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
To the person out there who is struggling with expectations of yourself and others, remember that there are only two expectations: Love God. Love people. That’s it. You have nothing to work for or prove to anyone. You are a saved by Christ’s works, not yours. You are saved by His grace, not yours.
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6