The moment when you realize you're Pharaoh

September 13th, 2016

We had promised our son a new bike when we moved to Houston.

While he was in Dallas staying with his cousins, I figured it would be a great surprise for him to come home and see his new bike waiting for him.

Oh, the joy exploding within him when he saw that red, shiny bike. We brought it out of the garage to take it for a spin.

He got on the bike (with training wheels) and he froze.

He kept worrying that he was going to fall. I kept reassuring him that the training wheels would not allow that to happen. With every wobble, he got less confident and I got more frustrated. He wouldn’t pedal. He had a death grip on the handle bars and stayed there, rigid.

The humidity and heat didn’t help the situation. I could feel myself boiling over and he could tell that I was getting agitated — which made him more tense. It took every ounce of my being to not lose my cool. The last thing I wanted to do was to ruin his day and to forever scar him when it comes to riding a bike. Though I didn’t lose my cool completely, I think some damage was done because he didn’t want to ride the bike anymore.

I thought I didn’t have any expectations of him when it came to the bike. But apparently I did. I had expected him to get on the bike and — at the least — just sit on it. He couldn’t.

And it was maddeningly frustrating.

I can’t tell you why it was so frustrating. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t some close to the bare minimum expectations that I didn’t even know I had.

As we went inside the house, both upset, I remembered a sermon my friend told me about that her bishop had given.

He confessed to his Annual Conference that oftentimes he behaved like Pharaoh — holding high expectations that his staff and clergy had a hard time meeting.

“You’re killing us,” a staffer complained to him.

Then he challenged his listeners to think about the times they were Pharaoh to others. Since my friend shared that message with me, it’s been stuck in my head.

I don’t think that it’s wrong to have expectations. In fact, I think a lot of our local churches are suffering because they’re afraid to have expectations for their members: expectations to be disciples of Christ and not just pew-warmers.

But we can take it too far and have expectations that are too high — both for others and for ourselves.

I guess the crux of the issue is how we respond when someone doesn’t live up to our expectations.

I know many Korean pastors who burned out in ministry because they couldn’t handle the expectations thrown upon them and their families.

I know folks who continually and unhealthily beat themselves up for an inconsequential mistake because they’re far too hard on themselves.

And, I know a five-year-old who is on the autism spectrum and is hesitant to even get on his bike because of his dad’s expectation of him being able to ride it.

People are just that — people; human. They — we — make mistakes. We’ll never live up to everyone else’s expectations and others will never live up to all of ours.

Grace goes a long way. Grace prevents us from being Pharaoh.

Grace helps create space for love that is patient and kind.

Instead of modeling ourselves after Pharaoh (whether intentionally or not), let’s be intentional in modeling ourselves after Christ — who embodied grace rather than an iron fist.

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