Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don't Should On Me!

I was raised in the church, my family attended services twice on Sundays, every Wednesday night & any other time that stuff was happening. Our church was like a wonderful extended family & I loved the way it became a warm & 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 & pray 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 high-lighted pink Bible & 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 & 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 & was constantly feeling that I did not, could not measure up as a real Christian. An illustration often used, compared our relationship with God to a lover’s relationship & 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 & natural to read our Bibles & pray 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 & they know they really should be spending more time in prayer?
But what would we call a lovers relationship if the partner kept track of all your days of not spending time with him & held it against you? If you walked around with guilt & 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 & 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 & working fall under the “should” category & 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 & bask in how much He already loves me. This new picture of God is more fun & freeing in everything I do. He loves creativity & adventure & exploration & 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 have now includes us doing chores together, driving together & watching movies in one another’s company. He even did a Val Kilmer impression for me once! Really! We had a guest teacher in our Ministry School who told everyone to close their eyes & ask God for a picture of who he is for them in that moment. I immediately worried that I wouldn’t “see” anything & dreaded the time when all would talk about what they saw. From past experience I knew it would be pictures of beautiful fields & bowing at His throne & other scenes like that.

I closed my eyes & did not see anything, but I did very distinctly & clearly hear Him say, “You’re my chuckleberry.” Exactly how Val Kilmer in Tombstone as Doc Holiday always says, “I’m your huckleberry.” My goal in this blog is to be as honest as I know how to be & I am not making this up. What would you do if you heard that & you knew it was God? Yah, I laughed out loud & couldn’t wait to tell the others what I had heard!

There are many stories like this but the first one that comes to mind right now happened to someone I know who was enjoying a peanut butter & jelly sandwich while watching the Flintstones on TV. He suddenly felt the presence of God in the living room with Him so he leaned forward to turn off the show so he could give God his full attention. But before he touched the off button he heard God say to him, “Don’t turn it off, I like peanut butter & jelly & the Flintstones too.”

This is not the same god who “shoulds” on people! Whenever I hear myself saying the “should” word to myself or others it becomes high-lighted like the spell-check on my laptop. I stop & 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 & how they lived. But that is also why so many Christians in the past looked & sounded burnt out & angry when they preached. That is not the life I live. Mine is joyful, surprised & full of pleasure & delight most of the time. This blog post has become much longer than I expected & I could tell many more stories about the goodness & kindness of God. I can also tell tons of stories about both giving & receiving “shoulds” after being in vocational ministry for over 20 years! But I will end with this: Should happens, but not to me if I can help it!


  1. that is a truly excellent and thought provoking post brenda- thank-you.
    I agree with you on so many points you ahve raised.
    Love is natural and spontaneous- even in relationships with God.

    Blessed Be sweet sister xx

  2. The boxes of should and how to are every where. I only wish I read the Word more like I used to because I remember reading it with such passion and "I can't wait" to know more about Him. I think the boxes of "church" are kind of why we're not jumping back into one right now. For me it's got to be a love you said, He's not keeping track. But I do think He is jealous for me...

  3. Love this - thanks for a great reminder on the shoulds regarding God's love!

  4. I am not conventionally religious. And I drop a few curse words every now and then. But I believe in a higher power. I'm just not sure what that is. I believe that God is that extra bit of 'possible' when the 'im-possible' seems pending. That extra bit of strength when you just don't feel like you can give any more. And I believe that good is inherent in me. And I believe that is known by the higher power and it's accepted with all my faults.

    "What would you do if you heard that & you knew it was God?"

    This has happened to me on several occasions. I don't talk about it much because people aren't receptive to it. I think if people listened hard enough, most would hear it happening. When my cousin was killed, I remember sitting in a quiet room and I just could not stop crying. I couldn't gather my thoughts. I couldn't calm down. And then, very quietly, a soft voice said, "He's here." and I was calm. Very calm. It was like an overwhelming warmth flooding through me. And I slept so well that night.

    I love how open you are about your faith. It's beautiful and refreshing!


Hi Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment even if it has nothing to do with the specific blog, it's great to know that you are writing stuff that real live people actually read, ya know?