SIDEBAR: The Idolatry of Expectation

by David Paul Smith

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis provides a beautiful illustration of the way he remembered his deceased wife. He admitted his idealized vision of her wasn’t a true image. He said snowflakes had fallen across his memories — snowflakes of things he misremembered or parts of her personality he exaggerated. He knew that if she were to come back to him for even a moment, reality would blow away all the snowflakes, and he would again see her as she truly was. But as soon as she left, the snowflakes would again begin to fall.

We also build in our minds images of our heroes and people we respect. We tend to assume that because of the title or position they hold they have character we do not possess and are above the temptations we face. But those images are idols, not the real person.

Some in your congregation earnestly believe you never sin, never have a bad thought, and never suffer discouragement. Many young ministers fall into the trap of compromising themselves to meet those expectations. Others may actually believe they are above sin, and thus fall into pride.

The secret is in embracing both confidence and humility. You need to allow in some criticism so you never get “too big to fail.” Of course, too much criticism leads to discouragement, and you need to keep encouragers in your circle of friends as well so that you’re not too small to succeed.

Someone once said: “The best things to have are a kid who thinks you’re hero, a wife who thinks you’re a rock star, and a friend who thinks you’re an idiot.”

DAVID PAUL SMITH, Louisville, Kentucky