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Read the following after reading the previous post: “Tom, theology and parents – the question”

Thanks, Tom, for your response.  Please accept my apologies for not getting back to you until this evening.  I hope your day has been a blessed one and one of deeply joyful worship.

You have described a family situation having a variety of facets.   Your reference to your mother and father-in-law points to your longing for meaningful theological dialogue with them.  My response is to what I think is happening, but not in terms of their theological position, but in terms of what you are bringing to the table.  I want to begin with something personal for me.

Some years ago, my wife and I went to Siberia as part of a team of educators who had been tasked to instruct Russian public school teachers and administrators concerning the function of Christian ethics in the public schools.  Although our many years living in Argentina led us to making adjustments to differing cultural practices, Siberia was going to be very different from Buenos Aires.

Our trip to Moscow first took us to Chicago’s O’Hare airport.  From there, we would go to London where we would stay overnight, and then to Moscow.  Our luggage was checked all the way through to Moscow.  Our flight to Chicago was delayed for 2-3 hours because they couldn’t get one of the plane’s doors closed and locked.  Once in Chicago, we had to run with our carry-on luggage a very long way through O’Hare Airport to get to the British Airway’s overnight flight to London.  I was in shape, but my wife was not a runner, and so the run just about did her in.  We got to the gate just minutes from their closing the plane’s doors.

When we finally finished our flights, in Moscow, we found out our luggage had not made the transfer in Chicago.  So, we were luggage-less in the city of the Czars.  We were put up in a Moscow hotel room so full of cockroaches that we tried to sleep with the lights on, but the cockroaches were still crawling over us all night.

When we got to the airport the next morning for the flight to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, we found out the luggage still had not caught up to us.  We also had a team meeting, in which the team leaders emphasized this point, “in Russia, check your expectations at the door.”  We got on the Krasnoyarsk flight, hoping our luggage would finally show up, but with promises from other team members that they would share clothes with us for the two weeks we would be in Siberia.  The luggage finally was flown to us several days later, on a charter flight, and that part of the drama was over.

Why tell this story?  Because it simply is true that we are very much creatures with expectations.  Our expectations cover a tremendous range of things, including peoples’ behaviors, what a given academic course will achieve, how our marriages will work out, the health of our children, the welcome we will get from the parishioners of a new church, etc.  Expectations as a source of excitement and happiness can also set us up for failure, frustration, and other things even more personally threatening.

It appears to me, Tom, that you have a mixed set of expectations concerning some of the behavior of your folks.  Some things they have been doing for so long that you expect it.  Some things you wish they would do, but you can’t afford to let yourselves expect them.  You have been labeled falsely.  The situation has gotten to the point where there appears to be virtually no Christian fellowship.

So, I ask, somewhat rhetorically, is it time to check your expectations at the door?  Can you release your expectations to the Lord, allow Him to be the source of your satisfaction even if your parents are not doing anything in that regard.

I am not suggesting that you be either dismissive of your parents or calloused toward them.   My intent is that you arrive at a point where they are not a source of irritation or a source of frustration.  My intent is that you simply don’t expect from them what they can’t deliver.

Think of it as a baseball manager who knows that he doesn’t have a pitcher or the batters who can salvage the game.  The only sensible thing for him is to check his expectations at the dugout door.

When I play tennis with my 9 year old grandchild, I simply don’t expect to play as I can when playing his father.  I leave my expectations in the racket case.  When you go to your parents’ home, decide (you and your wife) before-hand what expectations you are going to leave in the car’s backseat, and then consciously don’t grab them just before closing the car door.