Don’t Should On Me


I was raised in the church, my family attended services twice on Sundays, every Wednesday night and sometimes every night for a week. 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 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 I often heard in those days compared our relationship with God to a relationship with a sweetheart, and asked us why we cannot wait to spend time with or read letters from our sweetheart, 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 heavy-ness 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 a 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 to the beach or staying home to watch the game on TV were all evidence of falling away from God or backsliding. Can you really 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. The result is that I am spending more time with Him in a natural and non-obligatory way. The God-relationship I enjoy now includes us doing chores together, writing together and watching movies in one another’s company.

This is not the same god who “shoulds” on people. Whenever I hear myself saying the “should” word to myself or to others, it becomes highlighted 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 God wants me 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 is 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 and joy. Should happens, but not to me if I can help it.

One Response to Don’t Should On Me
  1. Lisa Brittain
    October 21, 2014 | 3:36 pm

    It sounds to me you’ve found freedom to who God made you to be, and you’ve found the freedom to receive His many gifts. I call His unexpected surprised – “stickers”. Bless you with JOY!