I stared out at the crowd in front of me, and I wondered if they would see my hands shaking. Public speaking doesn’t bother me…not in the least. The bigger the crowd, the better. But not today. Today, I wanted to hide behind the podium. Today, I had to face the congregation in front of me as they heard the news that I was stepping down as their pastor. In fact, I was leaving my career all together.
There would be questions I couldn’t answer:
What are you doing next?
Why are you doing this to us?
What are we supposed to do now?
I wasn’t leaving because I had some great opportunity in front of me. I was completely burned out. For years, I bore the burden of the ministry there, and I could no longer move forward without doing great damage to myself and my family. No one knew what was going on in my heart, the good reasons I had for stepping down, and I couldn’t put them into adequate words. From every outside perspective, I was a failure. I had let everyone down.
I imagine all of us have experienced this at one point or another. When I wrote The Chase, I didn’t realize until I was finished that I was writing this life experience into the story. We are all a little like Willis; we wear the weight of someone’s expectations knowing we may never live up to them. Maybe you are a young mom who feels the stares of others as your child throws a tantrum in the store. Perhaps you are the student whose stomach turns as you prepare to take the SATs, a measuring standard that will forever define your academic career. You might be a career person who just can’t seem to secure that salary that enables you to do more than live paycheck to paycheck.
Friend, we all need to come to the same realization as Willis: expectations are shackles we put on ourselves. Oh, people will try to put them on you, but they cannot without your permission. We can spend our lives performing our best, hoping people cannot see the fear of failure in our eyes. Or…we can cast off the chains of expectation and become the person God created us to be.
It has been more than 1 ½ years since I left my career, and I still feel the raw burn of those phantom chains. Taking them off is something I must do every day. Some days, I succeed. Many, I do not. But…I am made for more than others' expectations. You are too, friend. Will you join me on this journey?