Limiting Expectations

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:1-6

When I was a little girl, I was painfully shy. My mom tells me of a time when she drove by my school and saw me standing alone on the playground. She wanted to come save me, come comfort me, but she knew I needed to make my way on my own. When I was a little older, she started talking to me about how she was painfully shy as a kid, too. By high school, her classmates thought she was stuck up because she was very accomplished, but didn’t talk to the other girls much. Instead of getting curious about her, they assumed she thought she was better than everyone else and distanced themselves from her even more. I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea about why I was quiet, so I decided to stop being shy. I took daily steps to do things that scared me until I genuinely enjoyed being more outgoing. By high school, my new classmates never would have guessed that I was painfully shy in grade school.

When I read the Gospel story for Sunday, I am surprised to find Jesus as a victim of stereotypes. What a human experience! The people in his native place do not think him capable of wisdom, of teaching with authority, because of their stereotypes about carpenters and of his family. Their ideas about him and his family, their lack of faith, limit what Jesus is able to do there. Instead of getting curious, they close their hearts to who Jesus is. Mark’s Gospel story makes me wonder, “What would have happened if my grade school classmates would have used assumptions to pressure me to stay shy? What if they were so used to me being shy, that they didn’t give me a chance to change?”

Isn’t it strange that the people we know the most are sometimes the ones who restrict us the most? I would think that Jesus would have been able to heal many people in the place he came from, or that the people would have received his teaching without being offended. The opposite was true. Expectations can carry weight. When I moved home after living abroad, many people in my life expected me to be the same as when I had left, but I had changed quite a bit. I wonder if that is a bit how Jesus felt when he tried to teach on the sabbath in his native place. We can play roles in our families or in our friend group that are hard to break out of. For example, my older sister doesn’t like always being the mature one, or my friend doesn’t like always being the funny one. Jesus challenges us here to not assume we know what other people are capable of. Leaving room for others to change and grow is an act of faith.

Do you play a role in your family? With your friends? Do you ever tire of the role?

Have you been stereotyped unfairly at school? How has that limited you?

Have you changed since you were a little kid? In what way?

Does it help to know that Jesus experienced being judged, too?

What limitations do you see put on people in your communities? (“Girls can’t…. “ “Athletes never…” “Young people shouldn’t…” etc.)

What are some things we can do to offer room to other people to grow and change?

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