All My Streams

nature-brook-creek-streamSo with Valentine’s Day 2016 having come and gone, I’ve been doing a little thinking about relationships. And how expectations affect relationships for better, or worse.

I’ve experienced a lot of Valentine’s Days in my life, more than 25 of them with the same guy. He’s responsible for the best one – the time he went into the city where I worked, drove all over the multilevel garage to find my car, put a cassette tape into the player, and left a note on the steering wheel telling me to play the tape. Earlier he had recorded himself giving me turn-by-turn directions from the garage to the swanky restaurant where he’d made dinner reservations for us (yes, I believe we can credit Rob Oller for the invention of GPS). When I saw his handwriting taped to the wheel, I was astounded. I don’t even remember the restaurant; it’s not important. People record themselves all the time now, but back in the early ‘90’s this was not a thing, and what sticks with me is the stunning sound of Rob’s familiar voice coming out of my speakers as if he was in the car with me, and the thought that he must really love me to go to that much effort.

This is in sharp contrast to my worst Valentine’s Day (different guy). In high school I once happened to have a boyfriend over Valentine’s Day. I would like to note that boyfriends were very, very scarce in my life, so this was a big deal. Finally, all my romantic dreams were about to come true. I would be like all the other girls because I had Someone Special for the big day. He (I can’t even remember his name) took me to a local pizza place for dinner.

It was a disaster.

I adore pizza; it’s next to chocolate cake on my list of favorite foods. But the pizza place did not pass muster as a refined gathering spot, and my ordinary date was not the prince of my dreams. I was not a princess. I sat in the noisy little place with its greasy slices and greasier cooks while my imaginings slid right into the brick wall of my expectations.

Fast-forward a few years to Rob’s stellar plan; he pulled off a great night precisely because he exceeded my expectations. But letting expectations be the measuring rod of our relationship isn’t sustainable. If I think that Rob’s job is to perfectly fulfill my need for love and respect, to never disappoint me, we’ll both be driven to despair.

I think we all know the way to handle our relationships boils down to Matthew 22:39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Not only is it a command to love, but it contains a built-in assumption that we love ourselves. Within the command is the assumption that what is worth loving has value. So at the very least, we can expect to be treated with dignity by other people, and should treat them with dignity. The command is the starting point for all human relationships.

But from there, things get murky. The command doesn’t come with a step-by-step DIY guide – and we humans don’t do well with uncertainty. Log onto Facebook at any given moment and you’ll see all kinds of relationship advice: Take care of your needs first. Move on if your partner can’t meet them. Click onto a conservative Christian website and you’ll read: Put everyone else first. Especially if you’re a woman.

Meanwhile our need to be loved and to love rises up in a cloud of expectation. Left unfulfilled, we become hungry, need coiling our bellies.

I don’t believe the solution is to make more relationship checklists or read more books. I don’t believe the solution is to chuck all our expectations, or lower them, or raise them. We aren’t capable of this, because we can’t help having expectations. I believe the solution is, in part, to learn to live with uncertainty. To learn to live knowing all our needs won’t be met this side of heaven. To live to extend grace and receive it.

I’ve realized the only One of whom I can have wild expectations is God. People will disappoint us even on their best days, and perhaps will disappoint us the most when they’re trying hardest not to. I hardly know my own heart most of the time, so how can I expect Rob or anyone else to read me? Lately I’ve just been trying to love people without thinking too hard about whether they’re loving me back the way I want them to. I’m trying to lay down the expectation that people should do for me what only God can do.

While we will have wild days with our loved ones, those times they’ll blow us away with their thoughtfulness and we’ll gleefully soak it in like butter on toast, at the back of my heart lies the thought that God is my deepest source of love. All my streams are in Him, as Psalm 87:7 says.

Photo via Visual hunt


2 thoughts on “All My Streams

  1. Commenting on Beautiful Word post “All my Streams” re: expectations, relationships: The following was my reply to beloved daughter-in-law Liza’s apology for “stealing” tickets they had given Chris and me to the Kruger Brothers’ appearance in Brooklyn. We couldn’t attend, so they used the tickets with our blessings and vicarious pleasure.
    Dear Liza,
    We are glad you were able to see the K’ Bros in person in a small venue. We first heard them at a house concert and it is still our favorite of all their performances. As for stealing our date – its a little strange but as much as we (I) love the Kruger Bros, since last Thanksgiving I have a new perspective. For years I had dreamed about them coming to the farm for our 50th. I spent countless hours in Australia, on Isle Royale, in the morning in the milk house, imagining how it would be to have them here with all of you, how the barn would look, having them bring their families to meet our family, planning the program, wondering if they would let me sit in for a song or two, etc. I particularly pictured sitting with Mom, surrounded by my family, listening to the Appalachian concerto’s 2d movement. I couldn’t imagine it getting any better. And then – they never responded to our invitation. I wasn’t crushed, because it had always been sort of too good to really happen, but I was disappointed. So, we started making plans to visit Africa and you all got busy on the party, and last Thanksgiving I found myself sitting with Mom, surrounded by my family, listening to the Appalachian Concerto 2d movement – but also hearing my children and grandchildren singing The Wedding Song, and Longer, and The River is Wide, Mary’s song, and dancing with Mom, and .. and.. and.. and realizing that what God had given me instead of the Kruger Bros. was to be able to see with my own eyes the results (so far!) of a lifetime of loving Mom, and being faithful to the promise we made 50 years ago. The Kruger Brothers are great, but they pale in comparison to the event we got to attend.
    Thank you for your part in all of it.
    I love you,
    I echo the theme of this post: Glorious is the City of Our God: This man was born in her. All my springs of joy are in thee.


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