Ought and Expectation

Written by Connie Armerding

The last of all the car doors shut. Thrusting the gear into park, I let my foot off of the brake. The kids all rushed inside and although I typically follow suit, I waited. Leaning my head into the steering wheel, I sat there in the quiet. The silence broke with the sound of my own voice. It started as a scream and turned into a wail. In the confines of my locked car, I let the walls come down. The weight of ought and expectation on my shoulders made it easy to resist picking up the pieces. I was tired.

This wall was not made of brick and mortar. It was more the likes of empty cardboard boxes. This barrier that surrounded me, was doing anything but creating a secure boundary. So, on this particular afternoon, I decided to dismantle my attempt at seclusion and protection. The act of releasing all the tension I carried felt in drastic contrast to the white knuckle grip that held my heart; my measly attempt to keep things looking upright and orderly.

Willingly I surrendered my agony and aspirations that day. Ought and expectation were laid on the altar. The weight of being a “put together” woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, the responsibility of being the primary care giver for 4 humans, and the longing for my own personal significance and accomplishments were laid to rest. I carried the torch of ought and expectation, one in each hand, for far too long. I held them proudly at first, confident that it was up to me to light the path. It was my duty. But these torches I was holding felt heavy and cumbersome. The flames of strife and comparison had even burned my hand a time or two. I couldn’t see past the bright light that burned in front of me. It is fair to say I had lost my way.

I sat there broken. wishing I held something whole to offer, something of worth. But in reality I was bringing what I had held dear. What mattered most to me was to appear strong and to gain the approval of others, only to find that seeking affirmation from man always comes up short in the end. I know now that I was only protecting my insecurity. My space behind the wall grew cold and it grew dark. The torches I was holding were what I looked to as my source of light and direction, only to be left with burn scars and smoke filled eyes.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:17

Through my tears I spoke these words aloud, over and over again.

I was bringing all of myself to the only place that I felt fully seen and accepted; before the One who created me. As I let the truth pour out of my mouth, my heart began to believe the words. God did not despise me. He loved me. He knew the road of struggle I had walked to reach this point of surrender. He was lovingly waiting for me there.

My hands were now open. I had released my grip on what I thought I needed, and postured myself to take hold of something entirely new. The lyrics of a song flooded my mind, and I knew that was my answer.

I heard about a sea, where sin sinks like stones There’s no floor there, just mercy down below There’s so much grace, There’s so much grace…

So in the safety of my minivan I waved my white flag of surrender. It felt fitting to do it there. The walls of this vehicle had witnessed the truest forms of me. The early morning school runs in pajamas and no make-up, the unedited outburst of anger towards my children when I think no one else hears, and the loud singing and dancing that occurs in my garage when everyone has exited the car. These doors and windows have witnessed much of the mess along the way. This awkward, loud release was a pivotal moment of surrender that became a declaration of freedom. And it happened in a 15 minute span before my kids pounded on the window to let me know my holy moment was indeed over.

As I entered into my house, I had an immediate opportunity to receive and extend the grace and love I had chosen to embrace just moments before. With ought and expectation no longer blazing in front of me and blocking my vision, my heart filled with peace as I looked around my messy living room.

One of the twins was in the kitchen cracking eggs to prepare a mid afternoon serving of french toast. An offering of love to her family.

The other twin was busy at work drafting a banner that was strewn across the living room floor with the names of our family members filling the space. A declaration that we are her people and she is proud of us.

My son had the TV on, a bit too loud as usual, standing to his feet shouting with passion for the team he is rooted for to win. An example of how he sees the importance of being folded into something bigger than himself. A testament that being part of a team is always better than going the road alone.

My youngest daughter is in the corner writing on the easel, and shouting with glee that she has spelled her name, yet again, and wants me to come and see her exceptional work. It is an invitation to speak value over her efforts and over her life.

I could have missed all these things and seen them as something other than what they truly are. Grace and love transform the way we see.

Connie is motivated by, and built for relationships with others. She loves a good story, whether found in a book or hearing one from a friend over coffee. She holds a BA in Interpersonal Communications from Wheaton College in Illinois and is attending Portland Seminary to receive her Masters degree. For over a decade Connie has been enjoying life along side my best friend and husband, Taylor. Their love multiplied and in a 5-year span added four children to their tribe. Margot, Ryken, Hudson and Lucy are the spice of her life. Her family recently moved to the PNW from California, and are enjoying the opportunity to explore the beauty that surrounds them. Connie is a writer and a speaker. More of her work can be found at conniearmerding.com or on instagram @carmerding.