Sabotaging Satisfaction

"Don’t worry, I’m a pastor."

That’s my new line for ensuring anyone and everyone that I’m trustworthy. But enough about me. Let’s talk about your dissatisfaction with life!

Your job isn’t fulfilling. Getting that degree was supposed to make all the difference. This relationship should’ve been the one. The new car smell wore off, but the payment continues on.

I can speak to this phenomenon of dissatisfaction from any number of angles, both anecdotally and personally. I’m somewhat of an expert. I’m especially qualified to speak as a pastor and parent, but have qualifications ever really stopped anyone?

Here’s a little nugget from one of my pastoral heroes, Eugene Peterson: “Unrealistic expectations about what church is like will kill you…” I imagine when Eugene typed that one out for his memoir, aptly titled, The Pastor, he did so with a curled upper lip, veiled ever so slightly by his bearded awesomeness.

Here is my shot at boiling this whole thing down to a single phrase: Expectations affect the way we evaluate experiences.

For instance, if I expect parenting to allow the same time and energy to do everything I did prior to having children, then I would be frustrated with my situation constantly, not to mention bitter towards my children upon realizing how misguided my expectations were.

When they interrupt Downtown Abbey or New Girl for the umpteenth time or color in my books or dip their fingers in their milk or “help” wash the side of the car with tire cleaner that I’m pretty sure is also used to clean oil vats.        

What right do I have to be frustrated towards toddlers acting like toddlers? Every right, if I expect them to act otherwise.

In a similar way, if I expect pastoring to be what I think it’s going to be based on minimal experience and an ill-informed 24-year-old mind, then my conflicting experiences will inevitably leave me bitter, cynical, critical, and inevitably looking for the greener grass. And would you guess what happened? I became bitter, cynical, critical, and looked for greener grass.

As it turns out, my unrealistic expectations were akin to Round Up. I killed whatever grass I found. Higher salaries and better job titles didn’t matter. Something internal needed adjusting.

Changing expectations is one of the most effective means for enjoying any experience, including the experience of pastoral ministry.

The best direction I can give is to base your expectations on that which never changes. In the holy Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Spirit—we find a refuge from the ever shifting winds of satisfaction and tottering targets of happiness.

“In his presence there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11)