This sign hangs in my kitchen, strategically near the coffee maker. My brother gave it to me years ago as a birthday present. I love it because it makes me laugh, and I think of him every time I look at it. My brother and I both share the same oddball sense of humor, as well as a profound love of all things strong and caffeinated.
Lately, though, I am loving it for an altogether different reason. God is using this silly, ridiculous sign in my kitchen to teach me a life lesson. I love it when something humorous can actually be used as a teachable moment.
For far too long, I have lived my life under the Tyranny of Should. I should be doing this. No, I should be doing that. The kids should be doing this. My husband should be doing that. The list of shoulds in this world is endless and impossible to fulfill. We have a list of shoulds for ourselves and for other people. Others have lists for us. And I have found that living my life by the Tyranny of Should sets me and everyone else around me up for a disastrous amount of disappointment.
How many times a day do you hear someone say to you, “Well you should…?” And how many times do you say it or think it regarding someone else? And of course we mean well. But man, is it ever confusing. By the end of the day, we have run ourselves ragged chasing after all the impossible shoulds that we have been told we must attain by so many well-meaning, but often misguided voices, that we have placed upon ourselves and that we place upon each other.
I should be a certain size by now.
I should be making x amount of dollars by now.
You should really get started on that blog you keep talking about.
You should spend more time with your family and less time at work.
You should be doing more for Jesus.
You should have a cleaner office, desk, or house.
He should be more thoughtful of my feelings.
These kids should know better.
I should be perfect.
I should be able to do everything.
When I was younger, I interpreted the very famous verse from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” as such. Because I believe in Christ, and the very same power that raised him from the dead now lives in me, I should therefore be able to accomplish all things. ALL THE THINGS. Like, everything. Anything. Even stupid things. Even things that God has not specifically asked or required of me. Faster and with more energy.
I thought that since I was a believer, that I would somehow be able to do everything and be everything to everyone, like I was magically infused with some kind of super-caffeinated, extra-strength, double espresso Holy Spirit juice. And I could keep piling tasks on my plate, saying yes to too many things, and Jesus would help me do it ALL.
But here’s what I am learning that is so profound and so liberating…some things, in fact, so many things, are just not meant for me to do. Some loads are just too heavy for me to carry. Instead of doing all things, even things I wasn’t meant or designed to do, my goal for 2017 is to do the right things, for the right reasons.
So instead of living by the Tyranny of Should, my goal is to live more intentionally by the Rule of Shall. What is God asking me to do? Better yet…what is He giving me permission to do? What has He already prepared for me in advance and giving me strength to do? This may sound restrictive or confining, but, on the contrary, it is actually quite liberating. When I am free from the tyranny of should, and free from all the unrealistic expectations I place on myself and others may place on me, I can focus on the things, the truly important things, that I feel like I am being led to do.
Instead of listening to all the shoulds today, what is God saying you shall do?