Sunday, July 17, 2016

Don't Should On Me


Over the last few years I've had a handful of people ask me for a copy of an article or blog I wrote titled "Don't Should On me". I had another request today and could not find that particular blog post. So I am posting the entire chapter from my book WALKING BUTTERFLY with the same title. Enjoy and feel free to share if you care to. 

Chapter 9 - Don't Should On Me

I was raised in the church, my family attended services twice on Sundays, every Wednesday night and any other time that stuff was happening. Our church was like a wonderful extended family and I loved the way it became a warm and comfortable social circle for me.

The center of that circle was the shared desire to serve God in all areas of our lives. We were taught to read our Bibles everyday, attend church as much as possible and spend time in prayer everyday. As a teen I can remember starting one Bible-reading system after another, marking my calendar with my self-assigned Bible passage to read that day. I would open my highlighted pink Bible and some days it seemed alive as the words on the page fit exactly what I needed that day. But I also had many days when the words meant nothing to me and made no sense or were just so boring I had to literally force myself to finish so I could mark the section off on my calendar. This manner of “serving God” came with me into my adult life.

Though this training was well-intentioned, it planted the idea that I needed to earn my way into God’s heart. If I missed a day of reading or praying I felt guilty and was constantly feeling that I did not, and could not measure up as a real Christian. An illustration that was often used, compared our relationship with God to a lover’s relationship and asked us why we can’t wait to spend time with or read letters from our lover, yet we put off spending time with God. The inference was that if we really, truly loved God it would be easy and natural to read our Bibles and spend time in prayer everyday. That thought brings heaviness to me even now as I write this.

Haven’t we all heard Christians around us talking about how they don’t read the Bible enough? How often do we hear Christians complain about not spending enough time in prayer? But what would we call an earthly relationship if the partner kept track of all your days of not spending time with him and held it against you? If you walked around with guilt and fear due to your lack of reading his letters or calling him on the phone often enough? Wouldn’t we call that an abusive relationship?

Playing golf on Sunday, going fishing or staying home to watch the game on TV were all evidence of falling away from God or “backsliding”. Can’t you just picture God up there checking the Sunday morning roll sheet? I am intentionally not mentioning the specific denomination because I believe this mindset of earning God’s love is seen in a general way in almost all types of organized religion.

For the last few years God has been showing me a brand new way of looking at him and the relationship between the two of us. For me the “Good News” is not just about Jesus dying on the cross for my sins. The Good News is that when He said “It is finished” it was FINISHED! Any kind of striving or working to dutifully “serve” Him because I owe it to Him is not a love relationship. Striving and working fall under the “should” category and God does not “should” on me.

To make myself read the Bible everyday to gain points with Him is silly because He has already awarded me all the points available. It is finished! I don’t need to grovel or do penance for my mess-ups, I am forgiven. All I do is get up, brush myself off and bask in how much He already loves me. This new picture of God is more fun and freeing in everything I do. He loves creativity and adventure and exploration and variety. Can you imagine how a God like that must get pretty bored in some of our church services? Do you ever get bored there? Be honest now.

The God-relationship I enjoy now includes us doing chores together, driving together and watching movies in one another’s company. He even did a Val Kilmer impression for me once! Really! What would you do if you heard that and you knew it was God? Yah that’s what I did, I laughed out loud and couldn’t wait to tell the others what I had heard!

This is not the same god who “shoulds” on people! Whenever I hear myself saying the “should” word to others or to myself, it becomes high-lighted like the spell-check on my laptop. I stop and re-examine what I am saying or thinking. Am I agreeing to be on that committee because I want to or because I should? God may not be impressed with or even affected by my service to Him that is done dutifully because “someone” had to do it. I have been surprised at how the world did not come to a sudden halt when I “failed” to do what I “should”. What freedom that brings!

I believe the church leaders of the past had good intentions. They insisted we do our Christian disciplines because that’s how they were trained and how they lived. But that is also why so many Christians in the past looked and sounded burnt out and angry when they preached. That is not the life I live. Mine is joyful, surprised and full of pleasure and delight most of the time. The God I love is full of goodness and kindness! I could tell many stories about both giving and receiving “shoulds” after being in vocational ministry for over 25 years. But I will end with this: Should happens, but not to me if I can help it!

You and I now live in a culture that glorifies the “problem” of being too busy. Social media articles, status updates and real life friends who gather together, seem to spend a great deal of time complaining about their overly busy lives. In reality they are bragging about being too busy, as if it is a good problem. As if it is evidence of the good life and success.

The truth is that an over-packed life is not a healthy life. A crammed-full calendar could actually be symptomatic of allowing others to “should” on you. It might be time to list your activities and get ruthless about eliminating the items that do not give you joy or fulfillment. Ask yourself why you agreed to lead the Bible Study or Kids’ Church once a month. Yes, “they” needed the help, but it is important for you to ration your energy and passion in the best way possible for you and your family.

In any normal church or organization there are a few people who do everything and a lot of people who do very little. It is time to spread the opportunities out for others to pick up. There is someone in your group who needs and wants to be contributing more. This is the chance to leave an opening for them to step into. If you have volunteer jobs that have lost the fun, it is time to let them go. Do not allow someone else’s “should” get all over you. Step away from the “should”.

Father, I thank you for the gifts you’ve given me. I want to use them to the best of my ability and bring glory to You in their use. I do not want to be filling holes that You did not design me to fill. Forgive me for falling into the temptation to glorify myself by taking jobs that were not meant for me in the first place. Please help trim down my TO DO list and cross out the items that You did not choose for me. I will trust You in this difficult task. Let me see what You see for me. Thank you Father.
Amen Pin It          Like this? Don't forget to SHARE...


  1. Oh, "you SHOULDN'T HAVE!" lol! This is wonderful as always. Yes, you SHOULD have reposted this!!!

  2. The title and your take on "should" are wonderful. We discussed this in Bible study before church today, that it is a relief to know we can not "earn" our way to heaven and that our entry into heaven is a gift of love from God. Romans in the Bible talks clearly about this.

    1. It is a constant lesson I am learning. His Grace is bigger than we know, I am convinced of this.
      Thanks for congratulations by and commenting Terra.

  3. Amen!

    ..."He even did a Val Kilmer impression for me once! Really! What would you do if you heard that and you knew it was God?"

    I'm your huckleberry?

    1. Ha-ha! Almost! I tell the story in my book. He told me in a Val Killer voice that I was His chuckleberry because I give Him pleasure. Blew me away!


All comments are good comments!

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