Measuring Up

measureHow many times do we place unrealistic expectations on others? How many times do we place unreachable expectations on ourselves and then beat ourselves up when we fail to measure up? I dare admit publicly, I am guilty of both. The problem is I am fairly easy on myself, making excuses to minimize culpability. When it comes to others, however, that is a different story.

The devil sets very subtle snares for us. He is a master when it comes to disguising sins under the umbrella of self-righteousness or zealous Catholicism.

Pope Benedict XVI writes about Judas Iscariot in a telling way, “Judas could have gone away as did many of the disciples…Instead he stayed on with Jesus. He did not stay out of faith or out of love, but rather with a secret intention of taking revenge on the Teacher…Judas did not go away, and his greatest sin was his deceitfulness, which is the mark of the devil.”

Judas had expectations for the Messiah, one who would “lead a revolt against the Romans.” Jesus didn’t measure up for Judas.

How many times do we subconsciously or not, place our expectations on our religious leaders of today? If only Father would do this or that. Why doesn’t our parish do liturgy like the good old days? Can’t the parish staff act more like saints instead of sinners?

All very good questions, but there is a fine line between accepting someone for who they are, praying for their sanctification, and subversive undermining that causes immeasurable damage.  So-called harmless little mumbling can begin at first with the best intentions, and quickly escalate as we try and gather support for the inevitable ambush.

I can tell you firsthand that working for the Church is challenging. I have a long history of unrealistic expectations and burst assumptions. Neither assuming nor expecting gets us anywhere productive. While I always thought working on the inside would be awesome because I would be working with fellow happy, faithful, holy and passionate Catholics; I have learned that it isn’t always what one assumes.

While all the saints may not be in heaven, we here in the “Church Militant” are sinners and doing the best we can. We need to learn to be patient with one another as we are not in heaven just yet. We are Christians under construction and that means we are going to make a lot of mistakes. We are all human, the imperfect, sinful, fallen people God calls to work in His vineyard.

God lets us help him and even at times, tolerates our working against Him. He wants our cooperation no matter how imperfect and pathetic and messy it gets. And boy does it get messy. It feels on occasion, like we are in the stocks and the whole parish is launching watermelons. At other times, things go according not to our plans, but to God’s and turns out so much better than we imagined. We are all in this together. We need to be praying for each other, praying for God’s will in all things, and just loving one another as we are-imperfect, but a work in progress.

In mass the other day God gave me a word, “expectations.” It was the very key that opened the door to my understanding why I get so frustrated, become impatient, and feel the need to be personally responsible for the faith life of every human I encounter. It was like God reminding me that He is God and I am not.

He knows what is going on. He has it covered, and there are other workers in the vineyard far more capable than I. He needs me in this little corner, doing what he equipped me to do, and doing it to the best of my ability. Because, when I get preoccupied with other parts of the garden, then I am not taking care of the plot He has especially set aside for me to work.

In sacramental confession I was able to take a load off my shoulders, and I need to be ever mindful not to pick it up again. That age old predator still lurks trying to twist things up and confuse with his subtle lies. Fear not, for God is in the garden too and is there when we need an exterminator.

Barbara Lishko works full time as a Lay Catholic Marriage Minister. She and her husband Mark, an ordained Deacon, have been married for 35 years and are blessed with five young adult children, whose lives grow and expand through marriage and grandchildren.

Through the inspiration of her family, work in the Catholic Church and wacky life experiences her dream of writing was born. She is the recipient of the Diocese of Phoenix St Terese of Lisieux award. Barbara can be reached at blishko_58@yahoo.com