There’s this curious story in the book of Matthew where we see Jesus, in the middle of his ministry years, making a journey to his hometown of Nazareth. While there, he does what has become natural to him, what he has been doing everywhere else—he teaches the people about the Kingdom of God.
“‘We had no idea he was this good!” they said. ‘How did he get so wise, get such ability?’ But in the next breath they were cutting him down: ‘We’ve known him since he was a kid; he’s the carpenter’s son. We know his mother, Mary. We know his brothers James and Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live here. Who does he think he is?’”
From the Message, Matthew 13:53-57
It’s a pity, really. These people who knew who Jesus was, who knew where he came from and were familiar with his family recognized that he had turned out to be far different from what anyone ever expected. Yet they discounted what so clearly flowed from his heart and lips merely because they looked at him through the lens of the past and what they already knew about him. Hence, they did not allow their eyes or their hearts to be opened to the freeing truths that he came to impart.
They simply missed out. Bummer.
Are we not often the same, though? All of us look at God and even other people through a certain lens, based on what we think we know. Many times when God wants to show us a new truth we haven’t seen before or bring revelation to help us see in a new way, our view is so clouded that we immediately dismiss it. And slowly, over time, we miss out on abundant life. It’s like a gradual boil and can be likened to that poor frog we’ve all heard about. We don’t even realize what we’re believing, but every time we negate something new or impossible-sounding that enters our minds, we become more deeply rooted. And so over time it becomes even harder to recognize or get free from our limited beliefs. And our lives are unnecessarily restricted.
This can be applied to what we believe about people as well. Whether it be ourselves or those we know, we all have perceptions about the people in our lives that are based on many factors. What we know about someone has become our “truth” about that person. And when something has become a truth, it cannot be undone so easily. Even when a person so evidently defies the odds or our expectations of them.
Try to identify what you think (or know) about yourself, for instance. What is your personality? What is your style? What do you enjoy doing, what is your career, and how do you spend your time? What kind of environment were you raised in? What are some of the joyful or painful experiences in your past? Who are you?
These are both easy and yet difficult questions. They force us to evaluate what we really believe about who we are. But perhaps if we give it some thought, we can begin to shatter some of the false expectations we put on ourselves. I believe freedom begins here.
Have you ever surprised yourself? Done something you thought at one point in your life you would never have the courage, brains, or ability to do? Now—did you keep doing that thing and even move on to more challenging things, or did you stop after that one time? I would venture a guess that if you stopped you probably believed a lie about yourself that has kept you trapped in this “expectation zone.” Too often we allow our thoughts about what others think of us to frame the lens through which we see ourselves. No matter our desires or passions. If we’ve always been told we can’t do it, we can’t do it. So we don’t try. And if we happen to surprise ourselves, we shrink back, because that was out of character. And, goodness, if I do that again, I’ll become a completely different person. No one will recognize me.
What is this fear?!
Jesus is our ultimate example for the way we are created to live as humans on this Earth. He chose to be courageous and defy the odds, to act even when it went completely against the expectations of all those who knew him. But he was not concerned with their limited perspectives, because he chose to believe in who he really was. He was God’s son. He had unlimited power, possessed a love that could heal hearts and set captives free. He could even look out at the vast waters that everyone else saw as a threat and walk right on top of them! And even when those most familiar with him discounted his teaching merely because it didn’t match with what was normal for a simple boy from Nazareth, he kept going.
He shattered the expectations of those around him. He did not allow others’ views to alter his reality or who he was born to be.
I know that personally I have so often missed out on seeing the beauty in people because of viewing them through clouded eyes. They can’t do that because look at them! Or look who their parents are or where they came from. I am grieved that I have ever viewed people in this way, because I never want to be someone who limits others. Just the opposite. I want to ignite freedom in people’s hearts when I look into their eyes and see who they truly are. See the beauty.
But see, this begins with me. This begins with me looking into the mirror at myself and seeing the glory. Calling it out of myself, yanking the beauty away from the lies that have held it captive.
What is expected of me?
Well, every person might answer that differently. But I am no longer concerned with what they say. Because I know who I am, and I will not be so afraid that I deny the longings and the passion inside. If I want to do something I never thought I could do, what is there to stop me? After all, I am God’s very own daughter, am I not?
Challenge the expectations. Let’s see what kind of freedom we can release as we embrace new eyes.