My favourite scene in the recently concluded first season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians was a heart-wrenching conversation between Sally Jackson and Poseidon.

“I want him to know who he is before your family tries to tell him who they want him to be.” This poignant line that Sally delivered about her son resonated deep in my bones.

More often than not, the weight of the expectations that our families impose upon us can get to us. We are moulded and shaped by these burdens, whether for better or for worse.

The list of expectations can range from the big to the small: straight As, be a doctor/lawyer/engineer, finish your household chores, lose that extra kilogram, curfew at 6 pm, must learn the piano, get married by 30…

The list goes on and on – as does the number of things we’ve yet to fulfil – and Chinese New Year often only magnifies that.

It can be tough when insensitive comments about marriage, children, and one’s weight are made at the dinner table. Worse still, is when we are compared to our siblings and cousins, pit against each other in a senseless competition.

These expectations placed upon us wound our self-esteem and pride and they can cause us to shoulder a heavy burden. 

Perhaps you feel jaded by these expectations that have followed you for a lifetime. You have tried your best to meet them but they are left unfulfilled, which is why, year after year, family reunions remain the bane of your existence.

If so, this one’s for you. As you head into Chinese New Year, here are three encouragements to bear in mind for a grace-filled season.

#1: Give grace as you have been given grace

Jesus first displayed overwhelming grace by dying for our sins on the cross though we were undeserving (Romans 5:8).

We were once enemies of God, but the blood Jesus shed on the cross allowed us to be set free and be made new in Him (Colossians 1:21-22).

Hence, just as God forgives His children through Jesus, we are commanded to forgive and show grace to other people (Colossians 3:13).

Our relatives may not deserve grace, but are we anymore deserving of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us? The answer is no.

Humility is recognising the sobering fact that we need God’s grace as much as the next person does.

So, when we engage in conversations with our relatives, let our speech be seasoned with grace. Let us be slow to anger and abound in patience and grace instead (Colossians 4:6, James 1:19).

Let us show the same grace that God has shown and continues to show.

#2: Remember whose you are

I have found expectations to be much like stacking glass cups. The more glass cups; the higher the stack; the more precarious the situation. If expectations continue to pile up, the stack will began to wobble ever so slightly, and it won’t be long till everything comes crashing down.

Thus, we feel pressured to meet and clear the many expectations placed on us. If we fail, we berate ourselves, falsely assuming that we are less worthy in the eyes of our parents, our relatives or ourselves.

We don’t have any grace for ourselves!

But God offers a different perspective. Your worth is not defined by how many expectations you meet or how well you meet them.

You are already worthy in the eyes of our Father. We are divinely made us in His image and loved beyond measure (Luke 12:7, Psalms 139:13-14).

So, our identity is not rooted in what our parents say we must achieve. We are, first and foremost, children of God. That is what our identity should be rooted in.

None of us will ever be able to fully comprehend how much God loves us and how precious we are to Him.

But what we can learn to recognise is His unfailing and unconditional love for us, which leads us to our final reminder…

#3: Trust that God wants to carry you

Beyond being worthy in God’s eyes, God also wants to carry that weight on your shoulders. Yes, that weight that you have been shouldering on your own for so long.

We look for hope in times when we feel angry, resentful and bitter. We wish that one day, it will get better.

Well, God promises that He will give you rest if you go to Him.

Whether that’s through prayer, worship or reading His Word, God takes our anxiety and fears and gives us something that is light and easy instead.

He is a God of compassion and of hope and He wants to give you rest from your burdens (Psalms 55:22).

If it is too hard to come to Jesus alone, go with a friend, a brother or sister-in-Christ.

We no longer need to dwell on the snide comments made by a relative, or to harbour the disappointment we feel when we fail to meet the mark.

Instead, we can turn to God, cast all our anxieties on Him – and our weary soul will find refreshment.

This Chinese New Year, I hope that these reminders can help to redirect our focus onto the Lord. 

Let us not fixate on the expectations imposed by others. Rather, let us be rooted in our identity as God’s children.

Praise God that we are recipients of His grace again and again!

Think + Talk
  1. What are some expectations that have been placed on you?
  2. Have you failed to meet these expectations? How did those around you respond to that?
  3. What does God say about your identity?
  4. What is one verse you can meditate on to root yourself in your identity as a child of God?