I was keeping the nursery at church last Sunday and one of the guys that volunteers with me said something that made me laugh, but also made me ponder. He said it jokingly after his wife made a comment about something she should do. He said, “Stop shoulding yourself!” If you say the phrase out loud it may make you chuckle, but it made me think, “Man, isn’t that the truth?”
Want to know what the word “should” does? It’s a good intention that carries a backpack full of shame.
“I should really take them dinner. They’ve been through a lot lately.”
“I should do a bible study.”
“I should really start to work out more.”
“I should start eating healthy so I can lose some weight.”
“I should really call ________ and catch up.”
“I should start memorizing Bible verses.”
“I should volunteer.”
“I should learn a new skill.”
“I should be more intentional about spending time with my husband.”
“I should ________________…”
The list could go on for infinity, am I right?
When did we start living lives of “should dos”? I have a feeling it’s when we started comparing ourselves to other people; so basically it’s been going on forever, but social media has really amped it up. We see pictures of people starting amazing organizations. We see couples going on dates. We see people organizing their lives. We see people growing their businesses. We see parents doing fun things with their kids. We see people having quiet times. We see people in yoga poses. We see it all. The best of every person. Everything. And none of it is bad, but when we start thinking our lives are supposed to look like someone else’s, or really everyone else’s, that’s when it gets sticky. And shouldy. When we consider what we should do, it’s normally based on what someone said we should do or saw someone else doing. Don’t you love it when you tell someone something and they say back, “Well, you know what you should do is….” It’s like unsolicited advice on how to live your life. As if they’re some sort of expert on you. But dangit if I don’t do it too. We have good intentions, we really do, but sometimes people don’t want to be fixed; they’d rather someone just listen. Sometimes we just want to be loved for who we are not what we do. Social media has led us to believe if we’re not doing something amazing with our lives for all the world to see, then our lives must not be post worthy. This is crap.
To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure what I should be doing with my life. Anyone else live with that uncertainty? Does it consume your thoughts on the daily? Or is it only there when you get quiet right before you go to sleep? It can send you into a tailspin quick as a whip. Many of us just block/busy it out all together so we don’t have to go to that part of our soul. The shoulds can weigh us down and make us feel inadequate in so many parts of our lives that I get why we don’t want to address it. But if we don’t address it, we risk living a life where we don’t value ourselves and how God made us.
I don’t know much, but one thing I’ve learned in the last few months is living underneath “shoulding shame” is not living at all. It’s a life sucking existence. If we ever want to know what God wants us to do, I can guarantee it’s not live with a backpack full of shame bricks. That is not the life He has called us to. He did not send Jesus to the cross so we could spend our lives living in shame.
“But you don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know my thought life. You don’t know my past sins. I try to be a good person but I keep screwing it up. I’ve never done anything with my life. I’m just a regular person; a nobody, really.”
Maybe these statements are how you feel about yourself. We say nastier things to ourselves than we do our worst enemies. We are so unkind to ourselves. We know God loves us but we have a hard time believing that don’t we?
We know the gospel is: Jesus died to forgive our sins and if we believe in Him we have eternal life.
But we live like: Jesus died to forgive our sins and if we believe in Him and do a lot of good things and are really good Christians, we have eternal life.
Nope. Not the gospel.
The beauty of the gospel is it leaves out all the shoulds. And do you know what happens when you live without the shoulds? You’re free. You are free to live, knowing you’re beloved by the God who created you. And guess what: He loves you for no other reason than He created you.
In Psalms 139:14, it says:
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
God made us wonderfully from the beginning. He knew us. He hemmed us in. He saw our unformed substance. He laid His hand upon us. He is a good Father who loves His kids. Our souls know it very well.
Quit shoulding yourself. Live with the knowledge that you are loved. When we live like we’re loved, we can begin living a life of want to, instead of should do.
When’s the last time you just sat and let God love on you? If you don’t know how to let God love on you, go read Psalm 139. I pray it leaves you feeling loved, known, and near to the Father.