Peeking through the crack in the bedroom window, I tell H, “I’m going on a walk now. I should’ve gone earlier but . . .”
It’s 10:00am on a Monday morning and I hear myself say it. Is this really how I want to start my week?
“Why am I doing that to myself?” I say to him in the next breath. “I’m shoulding all over myself and why, I have nothing on my schedule, it makes no difference what time I go on a walk.”
He smiles and knows he doesn’t need to say anything.
When I hear the should in a sentence, it’s a trigger that I need to re-evaluate. Should is a sign I’m making decisions from guilt and condemnation instead of conviction.
And really, should is most often a result of comparison. I should be thinner, sexier, less talkative, more thoughtful, a better parent, you insert the adjective. Today I am judging myself based on my productivity about how I am using my hours. In a split second I created an unreasonable standard for myself that became an instant joy-sucker.
Living a should-life is one of diminishment. Instead of flourishing in God’s freedom, we drink the dregs the world dictates and the result is often bitterness.
When God uses the word should in the Bible it is usually a teachable moment. His directive before the Lord’s Prayer, you should pray this way, is not because He wants to make us feel guilty about a lack of eloquence but because He longs for conversation. His examples give perspective, a road map for relationship.
With all the news about Ferguson scrolling through social media feeds, I have revisited my childhood and realized something important.
Growing up in St. Louis County, in a small apartment with my mother, I listened to the deep-throated melodies of Barry White on the weekends while we dusted with the windows open. It was the place I was first introduced to brown-skinned baby dolls by the little girl living in the apartment above us. Her parents wowed me with great fashion sense in the 70’s and rocked an afro with confidence.
There is a part of me that says I should interject what I think about all the banter on television because I actually lived there, but the truth is, that’s more about guilt than being a clear voice of reason regarding racism.
When I hear myself say, you should, in the context of my writing voice, I know it isn’t God leading me but selfish ambition.
And that also applies to other areas.
If I hear myself say, “I should be praying more,” I have to ask myself what is my motivation. I’m pretty sure God can take care of things despite my lack of commitment.
When I make the statement, “I really should spend more time with my kids,” I’m reminded that my kids don’t want my nearness induced by a guilt trip. People desire relationship motivated by love, not something you check off a list.
Should in a sentence reminds me to assess my motives. If the result comes from a place of conviction then I know my response requires action. Otherwise, I can discard that thought and enjoy God’s fingerprints all over creation. That is exactly what I did on my walk.
Unrequited love brings sorrow yet it’s more honest than guilt-induced intimacy. Love doesn’t use guilt as a tactic so perhaps should is really a sign that I’ve made trusting God an elective.
Are you shoulding all over yourself like I am? How do you evaluate your decisions?
*For people led by the Holy Spirit regarding Ferguson read the wise words of my friends Deidra and Jennifer who actually went there over the weekend.